The Lottery Discussion Guide:
A Few Conversation Starters
Use this discussion guide to inspire in-depth thinking, and jump-start a conversation about Shirley Jackson’s iconic short story The Lottery. There’s plenty here to set your mental wheels in motion.
- In what way is the story’s title, The Lottery, misleading? Why would Shirley Jackson choose such an ambiguous title?
- Why did Shirley Jackson choose an everyday place for the setting, and ordinary people for her characters? How would her story be different if the lottery took place in a church or courtroom, for example? Why would it be different if the “winner” was chosen by a select group of townspeople (like elders, priests, or a jury for that matter)?
- Over the course of Jackson’s story we learn a lot about the rules and procedures of the lottery, but nothing about its purpose or how it began. In fact, it’s apparent that the villagers themselves no longer remember. Why do you think Jackson makes a point of telling the reader that those carrying out this ritual don’t really know why they follow this long-held tradition?
- The Lottery is a very different story when you read it for the second time. What elements (like Tessie’s insistence that her daughter, Eva, draw with the Hutchinson family rather than with her husband) take on new meaning?
- Though she wrote during a pre-feminist era, Jackson has been described as a feminist. What are some feminist themes within The Lottery?
- As Mr. and Mrs. Adams point out, “Some places have already quit lotteries,” further stating that “over in the north village they’re talking of giving up the lottery.” Do you think that, at some point, this town will also give up the practice? Why, or why not?
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