Gender Inequality In The Lottery By Shirley Jackson

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‘The Lottery’ is a Short Story written by Shirley Jackson, and it tells of a lottery that is held in a small village every year on June 27th. The Person who wins the lottery will be stoned by the whole village, including his/her family. In this particular case, a woman is the one who picks 0ut the death card, and Shirley Jackson explains the dreadful death that she faced from a society that she thought was friendly to her. The story has used symbolism to bring out the major theme of Human Capacity for Violence. Several theories can be used to interpret the ideas of this short story. Feminist theory and biographical theory have been used to show gender inequality in this village, how time and where the author was raised influenced the story, and finally, how the author’s writing style influenced the story.

Gender inequality is a theme that has been portrayed in the short story, ”The Lottery’ and this is shown by the different roles they play in this village. The author has used prevalent themes, exciting plot twists, and the use of symbolism to show various and distinct gender roles. Many instances depict men having superior social status and roles compared to women. Throughout the story, there have not been any dominant women mentioned, and the men made all the critical decisions. Women in this society have a lower social standing and are not accorded the respect women deserve. These gender roles are not bounded to adults alone, but the children are also victims. Men are described to have greater power to the extent that children when called by their mothers they don’t respond, but a single call from their fathers receives immediate attention. Mr. Summers was asking Mrs. Dunbar whether she had no grown boy to draw for her shows that the role of bringing the cards was reserved for the men. The illustration shows that the society only grants women opportunities and privileges second after men. The fact Tessie Hutchison was protesting that the lottery was unfair and no one hearing her plead shows that women have no role in defying society’s traditions.

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The culture and history of the author can be felt in the short story, ‘The Lottery.’ The short story published in 1948 has received a lot of criticism for portraying the negativity of customs. The author Tat this period was suffering from an identity crisis and also depression. The world was in a state of instability and war. It was still healing from the wounds that got due to the second world war and had terrors of the atomic bomb (Margret, 23). There was still under development, and this explains the uncivilization that has been shown in the story. The two older men were ironically saying that those villages that we’re abandoning the lottery would soon even drift back to living in caves. The symbolism used means that people saw violence as a way to civilization. The author is an American, and at that moment, when this story was written in most western countries and especially the United States was still patriarchal. This explains why there is the existence of feminism in this short story. The author felt that women were undermined, and they were not accorded the respect they deserved. Men were expected to work while women were just mere housewives. The men felt that they were more important, and thus when it comes to family matters, it was the husband who had the final say. The author has shown that Bill Hutchison did not try protecting the wife from being stoned even though she pleaded for help. The fact that people were killing each other during the war without having any reason is similar to Tessie’s case in this story. After she was selected, everyone she knew changed and followed what tradition dictated, stoning her. The story may be fictional, but at the same time, it is painting a clear picture of the kind of society she was living in at that time.

Shirley Jackson has used a very clinical and journalistic writing style, and it has vividly brought out how the story is plot-driven. She has reflected her life in the story and how the social dynamics of that time could be described as inhumane and cruel. Most of her works display genres of horror, and this story has been engulfed in exactly that mystery. The black box, for instance, symbolizes how society approves of persecution. Despite being proposed by Mr. Summer on fixing the box, the people are reluctant, and this shows that they are not ready to do away with the traditions of the past. This can be related to what is written in Shirley’s biography about how she felt she couldn’t fit into society. Her background on being a woman and also a writer received much criticism. The reason is that society expected a woman to be committed to her household duties as a housewife and not focus on her career. Shirley Jackson has provided the path for many women on how in the process faced a lot of suffering that has been shown in her short story, ‘The Lottery.’

In conclusion, there is gender inequality, and society is biased on the roles of men and women. Men have been portrayed to be more superior compared to women. Shirley Jackson has reflected her suffering during the post-war period in this story and that she came from a society that did not appreciate women. The author’s writing style and background have made the story very engaging to the audience. The lottery is a typical short story that can be related to by those who have been discriminated against by society and learn from Shirley Jackson.

Work Cited

  1. Jackson, Shirley. “Fiction by Shirley Jackson: The Lottery.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, October 18th, 2019,
  2. “Shirley Jackson | Books.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media,
  3. Goldstein, Margaret J. World War II. Lerner Publications, 2004.


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