main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Literature: The Lottery
"The Lottery" is a 1948 short story written by Shirley Jackson.

It's June 27th in a small American village. A village of three hundred people has prepared for this day as if it were another celebration, like a square dance or a Halloween program. This event, the titular lottery, consists of selecting a family, then an individual, from the slips of paper concealed inside a splintery black box which has been used many times before. The winner (in this instance, a woman) is surprised to be selected and protests that she doesn't deserve the prize, but the whole community, impelled by the weight of tradition, insists on giving it to her. After all, a good harvest is at stake. Cue the stones.

It would be any other quaint story if it weren't for the heavy symbolism. The story is Shirley Jackson's views on the pointlessness of violence and the inhumanity in the world, in each and every person and their own neighbors. Shirley Jackson received much hate mail for it, readers unsubscribed, and the story was banned in the Union of South Africa (the precursor to modern-day South Africa).

It is probably best known today as a staple of American junior high/middle school literature classes. It has been adapted into many kinds of media, such as radio, one-act plays, short films, a 1969 ballet, and a successful 1996 Made-for-TV Movie. Shout Outs in other media are not uncommon, such as The Simpsons and South Park as well as Squid Billies.

Read it here.

Tropes featured in the short story:

The Long ShipsLiterature of the 1940sMagic, Inc.
LolitaSchool Study MediaMaus
Lost SoulsHorror LiteratureLullaby

alternative title(s): The Lottery
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy