Monday, January 26, 2009

Symbolism in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"

Symbolism is a concept the author Shirley Jackson doesn’t seem to take lightly. Her short story “The Lottery” is teeming with objects and concepts that don’t show the reader their true meaning without a little digging. Three of the symbols that are very important to the story are the black box, the stones, and the pieces of paper.

The black box holding the lottery tickets is a symbol that holds a lot of mystery in the story. We don’t really know what is going on or the purpose of the story throughout, and the box represents this. It also serves as a symbol for death. Black is often associated with death and evil, which is how the story ends. Also, the box plays on the idea of a coffin holding dead people. One of the persons at the lottery are going to die, and the black box reflects this.

The stones are a symbol for tradition. Rocks are ancient and remind one of a simpler, more basic time. The traditions that the people follow are barbaric in nature and have been around for a very long time.

Another noticeable symbol is that of the pieces of paper. They represent the fragility and feebleness of life. This can be seen in the story wen Jackson says “he dropped all the papers but those on to the ground, where the breeze caught them and lifted them off” (Jackson 410). It shows how the people’s lives are just like the papers, insignificant.

Jackson truly shows how symbolism can add much depth to a short story. Without it, "The Lottery" would seem to be nothing more than an entertaining mystery tale.


Yoknapatawpha Kid said...

Dear Smithereens,

nice post! My name is Peter Ricci, and I am a college student and journalist. Currently, I am writing for 'Too Shy to Stop,' an online magazine that focuses on culture and the arts.

My latest story, as chance would have it, is about "The Lottery," and I stumbled across your post while doing research. Here is the link to the story:

So check it out! I think you'll like it. Be sure to leave a comment, also. We love reader input!


Peter Ricci

Nick Adams said...


I just wanted to let you know that I think you did an incredible job looking into the symbolism of this story. You helped me to see some things in a different light and gave me ideas for my paper in my English 102 class. I'll be using you as one of my sources in the paper.

I just thought you would like to know that your work has helped someone else.


Anonymous said...

Wow, thank you verry much for this. This has been a tremendous help for my eighth grade advanced english class. I've been trying to pinpoint every type of symbolism. This has also gaven me a verry new perspective on the story.