The Weekend Read
The Lottery

Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, published 66 years ago this week, is indeed shocking, but as much for its simplistic and pessimistic account of inherent human evil than for its courage in facing up to reality.

Published on: June 28, 2014
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  • ShadrachSmith

    Sort of fits in with the Democrats treatment of Fast and Furious, right down to the VA scandal. That evil which is necessary to ensure continued power, is not so much “evil” as it is necessary.

    Better PDF: http://sites.middlebury.edu/individualandthesociety/files/2010/09/jackson_lottery.pdf

  • Andrew Allison

    The evidence of mankind’s propensity to violence is all around us; currently in Iraq, but historically everywhere. Like it or not,evil hides in every human breast just waiting for an opportunity to emerge.

    • Gene

      Not every. Even in the worst circumstances there are a few with the courage to act morally. I hate to be pedantic, but let’s be careful about the use of “every.” In fact, how do we know that you’re not one of those courageous souls who has not yet had opportunity to display it?

      • Andrew Allison

        I agree. I’ve added quote marks to what I think was a metaphorical statement, and hope that I’m an exception.

    • Pete

      We live in a fallen world.

  • Anthony

    Ralph Nader (and a thought worthy of reflection): “pessimism has no function. It’s an indulgence of people who have little stamina to confront the challenges of modern life….”

    • qet

      Nader is wrong. Pessimism is precisely a product of such confrontation. The challenge of modern life whose confrontation results in pessimism is the challenge to live a self-directed meaningful and productive life in the teeth of persons like Nader whose stamina and optimism are employed in demanding the State restrict the individual’s range of free action. To Nader, the unregulated individual is nothing but a walking tort.

      • Anthony

        Whether Nader is wrong or not is not at issue (you gather your opinions as you will). Quote gives differing viewpoint as contrast than one you may perhaps invest. It’s not about Ralph Nader; in this instance he’s vehicle enlivening thought.

  • qet

    As much “as,” not as much “than.”

    Substantively, there is no reason to claim or even to think that banal thoughtless evil must lurk in everyone. It is enough that it lurk in some. I am with Gene here. Even in Nazi Germany there were anti-Eichmann’s, ordinary people who when swept out with the fascist tide resisted and did heroic things. I haven’t read The Lottery but doubt it would be written today. Not because in 40 years we know evil, or indeed any aspect of the human psyche, better than we did (although we think that we do), but because today the idea that there is any community anywhere in this country where all the residents would act as one in anything is passé, to say the least. On second thought, the story could, and would, be written today, with such a community being composed of Republican voters. The author would be immediately presented with the Nobel Prize for Literature.

    • Grigalem

      ” Even in Nazi Germany there were anti-Eichmann’s, ordinary people who when swept out with the fascist tide resisted and did heroic things”

      Very very few. You could list them on a sheet of paper.

      “the idea that there is any community anywhere in this country where all the residents would act as one in anything is passé”

      Obviously, you have never lived in a small town or a religious community. Or been a Jew at Christmastime. Or worked for IBM.

  • Anthony

    Both Jackson and Arendt allude to certain patterns of human behavior that transcend both culture and time: actual negative human traits that though universal are not talked about in “polite company”. The task for man is to quell, restrain, civilize, control (you name it) these destructive traits. Jackson and Arendt in their respective stories may have been interpreting, given where they were, the human impulse to both deny universality of these traits and tendency to disguise them under guise of normality.

  • “The Berkeley anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber, worried that Jackson’s
    transplanting of a primitive sacrificial ritual into a realist narrative
    of a contemporary American town.” .. would what? did what? said what? Is there a point to this sentence fragment?

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