Critical Essay Topic: Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"

Writing Topics and Tips

Shirley Jackson (1916-1965), author of "The Lottery".

Critical Essay Topic: Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"

Consider Shirley Jackson's comment on her purpose in writing the short story "The Lottery": "I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village, to shock the story's readers with a graphic demonstration of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives." With this observation in mind, identify, illustrate, and discuss the key elements in the story that contribute to the final effect of shock and horror.

Be sure to make clear how these various elements contribute to our understanding of the story's theme.

Remember that you're writing your critical essay for someone who has already read Shirley Jackson's famous short story, so there's no need to summarize the plot for its own sake. Nevertheless, be sure to support your observations with specific references to the story. Keep quotations brief, and never drop a quotation into your essay without commenting on the significance of that quotation.

To generate material for your body paragraphs, consider, in particular, the importance of point of view, setting, and symbols. And remember to use the literary present in your analysis.

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