"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson was so controversial that after its publication on June 26, 1948 in The New Yorker, that readers canceled their subscriptions and peppered Jackson with hate mail and threats. It brings up important themes for students to discuss, including the dangers of blindly following tradition, mob mentality, and the inversion of our culture’s family dynamics.
The crowd in the small village has gathered for an annual lottery that takes place each year at the end of June. Every head of household is called to grab a slip of paper from the box in the center of the village square. Mr. Summers is in charge of the lottery.
The conflict arises when Tessie Hutchinson realizes her husband, Bill, is the center of the villagers’ attention. The slip of paper he took has something on it. Tessie begins to yell that it isn’t fair, and that Bill wasn’t given enough time to choose the paper he wanted by Mr. Summers.
The entire Hutchinson family, Bill, Tessie, Bill, Jr., 12-year-old Nancy, and toddler Little Davy, are called up to the box. Mr. Summers puts five slips of paper into the box, including the one Bill Hutchinson had been holding when he was chosen.
Each member of the Hutchinson family draws a slip of paper from the box. All of the papers are blank, except for Tessie’s, which has a black dot in pencil on it.
Tessie begins to scream that it’s not fair, it’s not right. The villagers begin to pick up the stones they’d gathered earlier and form a circle around Tessie. They want to get this over with before noon dinner.
As Tessie screams, a stone hits her on the side of the head. Old Man Warner, the oldest man in the village, urges the villagers on. The villagers descend upon Tessie with the stones.