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Sep 29, 2020 in Book Review

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Feminism is an extensive movement for equal rights for both men and women. It started in Europe in the late 19th century and lasted until the 21st century. Therefore, the core aspects of its movement are portrayed in a famous story “The Lottery” written by Shirley Jackson in 1948. According to the last scientific reviews, this story is considered to be an example of feminist literature. At the same time, Gustavo Vargas Cohen states that it is spare and evocative prose (Vargas Cohen 49). Thus this paper seeks to explore some feminist aspects of this story as well as gender roles.

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Till nowadays The Lottery was analyzed from many points of view. The narrator tells a story from one point of experience thus decides what conclusions the readers should make (Tibbett 1). Literary criticism of this story varies according to the literary tastes of the different readers. However, it is a very multifaceted story and the reader can explore countless themes through its hidden symbols.

Tessie Hutchinson

Despite the story is quite short, there are some key episodes that prove that women were not satisfied with the existing state of things and wanted to change the order in the town. Male characters also assisted in finding the key aspects of female personalities. Analyzing the story from this point of view, the reader can understand how powerful women characters will at the end of the story. Along with men there exist numerous important female personages and Tessie Hutchinson is one of them. It should be noted that this personage is the most important one among all other women. She arrives late in the lottery and “wins” it.

She is stoned to death by the citizens, but before her death, she protested against the existing rules. Her voice is the voice of rebellion of all the women for Civil Rights. Speaking about women’s place in a society Hattenhauer concludes, “The story primarily deals with the subjugation of women in an oppressive patriarchal society. The researcher adds also that a married woman minimizes her chances of being selected by delivering babies early and often” (Hattenhauer 44).

Janey Dunbar

The other female figure in the story is Janey Dunbar who is the wife of Clyde Dunbar; this woman draws for her husband because he is sitting at home with a broken leg. Unlike Tessie, she accepts the existing order of things, but she throws only the small stones. Mrs. Delacroix is another figure who should be mentioned analyzing female characters of the story. She represents the duality of human nature. When Mrs. Hutchinson complained about the unfair result of the lottery she just said, “be a good sport, Tessie” (Jackson n.p). Nevertheless, all these women respect and support their men.

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Analyzing men’s impact on their women, the following words “Soon the women, will be standing by their husbands” (Jackson n.p) explain that women were totally dependent on the men’s existence in those times. Although this state of things was imposed, some women did not argue it. They accepted their gender roles as mothers and housewives. Moreover, women believed that family was the highest aim for every female. Throughout the story, Jackson emphasizes men’s power and that the state of things satisfies both sexes “they went to join their husbands” (Jackson n.p).

The description that the author used for women’s appearance is far from being pleasant “The women, wearing faded house dresses and sweaters, came shortly after their menfolk. They greeted one another and exchanged bits of gossip as they went to join their husbands” (Jackson n.p). Analyzing gender roles men were depicted quite pleasantly, whereas women were stereotyped. Almost always, all women were addressed by their first name while all men were addressed respectfully by titles. Women are considered as the lower caste, they were not allowed to do the same things as the men do.

For example, “The girls stood aside, talking among themselves, looking over their shoulders…” (Jackson n.p). The reader may find some prejudice towards women in this story. Mr. Dunbar is absent in the lottery and when his wife wants to draw, Mr. Summer asks “Don't you have a grown boy to do it for you, Janey?” (Jackson n.p) There are many examples that demonstrate the superiority of men over women. For instance, when a little boy wants to draw for his mother, everybody admires him. “Glad to see your mother's got a man to do it.” (Jackson n.p)

The Role of Women

There exists a lack of female characters and it characterizes the plot of the story; women are often seen as inferior to men. The author’s tone clearly describes the role of women in that time. Along with a terrible crime, there exists another one, the deprivation of women’s rights and this can be named the core problem of the story. There are numerous feminist motifs throughout the story. Noticeably, that almost all the characters of “The Lottery” have certain stereotypes. The lottery is just a tradition that has no meaning; nobody wants to get rid of this ritual.

However, women emphasize that the other towns have already done away with this entertainment, but nobody takes care of it. Unfortunately, all the women in this town are depicted as voiceless creatures, who have no rights and nobody considers their minds. None of the men dares to question the moral aspects of the lottery, but women do. Jackson emphasizes that women should not only face the existing norms but also to challenge them. Mrs. Adams says that these lotteries are already banned in other towns, but all the citizens consider this news as a rumor.

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There are other women’s opinions and complaints that were ignored by men. When Tessie Hutchinson begins to the complaint “You didn't give him time enough to take any paper he wanted. I saw you. It wasn't fair!” (Jackson n.p) her husband just told her “Shut up, Tessie”. (Jackson n.p) This situation can serve as an example of how the women were treated by men. In many situations, men were depicted as more aggressive than women. Mr. Hutchinson did not respect his wife and when she could die, he asked her to accept fate.


In conclusion, it should be pointed out that, this story highlights some negative aspects of patriarchal society. The author emphasizes that the lottery ritual is as old as the belief that men should have more civil rights than women. Shirley Jackson helps the reader to understand the women’s attitude towards the cruel male-dominated and male-oriented society. Feminist ideas should predominate in this story. Gender roles are extremely important features in this story. Mrs. Hutchinson symbolizes a victim that should be taken of a way to acknowledge women’s rights. However, the author insists that the bright ideals of equal rights are quite affordable.

Analyzing the story from the gender point of view one can notice that the whole story is a symbol of the movement for the rights of women. The “Lottery” illustrates numerous progressive ideas concerning the place of women in the world. The core idea of this story is that the ancient patriarchal society is as old as that stereotyped game.

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