Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Lottery

The Lottery is a short story by Shirley Jackson, who also wrote The Haunting of Hill House. It can be read online. It's considered a classic among American short stories; although it received negative attention when it first appeared, including hate mail and cancelled subscriptions to The New Yorker magazine which had published it.

The lottery process starts the night before with pieces of paper and a list of all the families. Once the slips are finished, they are put into a black box, which is stored overnight in a secure location. The next morning the town residents gather and the heads of the households draw papers until every head of household has one. Each member of the "winning" family then gets to draw a paper in order to select one individual person.

It has been much analyzed and studied, but I haven't researched or read any of that. I'm just reading the story for the shock value and because it's the month of Hallowe'en. It seems to fit the mood.

The story has been dramatized for radio (you can listen to it here), for television and for film. The 1969 short film is a faithful adaptation and features Ed Begley, Jr. in his 2nd role. That one can be watched on youtube, divided into 2 sections. part 1:

part 2:

The 1996 full-length television adaptation, which can be seen online at youtube here, is much more loosely based on the original story than the 1969 version. I suppose when they expanded it, they needed to fill in all that time. The story is better suited to the short film time frame.

A 2007 version is a short film and remains fairly faithful to the original (tho not as faithful as the 1969 version), but the music is heavy-handed.

via youtube:

I wonder what Shirley Jackson would've written as an older woman. She died in her sleep when she was just 48.


  1. I hadn´t heard of Shirley Jackson, or this story. Very interesting (the whole outrage bit after it was published), and a very good story, I think.

    1. My favorite of her work so far is The Haunting of Hill House. I love it and the film adaptation by the same name.

    2. oops! It looks like the film is just called "The Haunting". It's a 1963 film directed by Robert Wise.