The Human’s Lottery: Exploring Humanity and Unveiling the Reality

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Updated: Aug 21, 2023
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The Glimpse into “The Lottery”

How often is it do we think to ourselves after reading something of a fantasy, “I’m sure glad I don’t exist in a place like that!” Having that terrifying peek into another world truly does make us glad for the earth we have. After reading Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” however, you may not realize that the world in which the story takes place; is far closer to believable than you may realize. This is noticeable through analyzing the story’s characters, ending, and underlying message.

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It’s only after understanding these points that we can see the truth: we are all characters in “The Lottery.”

Relatable Characters: A Mirror to Our Society

Firstly, a key element to any story is the characters. Well, what’s special about these characters in particular? Absolutely nothing. That is what makes this story feel more believable. They serve as a perfect representation of stock characters, even down to their names. From common to simple names such as Joe, Adam, and Harry, we are given nothing to make them seem fictional. We even have characters to fit every social role! From families consisting of working men and stay-at-home mothers like Bill Hutchinson and Tess Hutchinson to even little children such as “the boys” who are so eager for their summer vacation like most students; and are already adapting to the traditions of society. Shirley even manages to show a sad principle of gender superiority when Bill commands Tess to “shut up” after it is revealed he has won the lottery. This intentional feeling of average and normal helps to relay the sinister fact that we could very easily fill the roles of every character in “The Lottery.”

Unsettling Endings and Real World Parallels

Next, let’s look at the ending of this short story. At the end of the book, we are left with a scene of Tess Hutchinson being stoned to death by the community. As told in south park’s parody of the story: “Sacrifice in March, corn has plenty starch.” Some may believe that this singlehandedly makes the story fantasy. However, this act alone solidifies the believability of the story. Blood sacrifice for agriculture or other reasons isn’t a temporally distant human act. Shirley juxtaposes ‘what the animals did there’ with our culture, which does seem outlandish. However, this ‘outlandish’ end is something we see very often and is widely accepted. In the crucifixion, isn’t Jesus a blood sacrifice for the betterment of the community? It is very real in today’s world that we make many sacrifices just for the chance of a benefit without much thought of change. The truth is that “The Lottery” happens every day, all the time, everywhere. Humans treat other humans incredibly poorly out of habit and because “that’s how we’ve always done it.” This ending entangles deep down to the very realistic roots of human characteristics.

The Message Beneath “The Lottery”

Finally, let’s analyze what we can about the story’s underlying message. The story isn’t about nobody caring about tragedy until it happens to them, nor is it a detailed account of some alien ritual with unknown origins. It’s about real people who mindlessly follow social customs without really thinking about it.


  1. Jackson, S. (1948). The Lottery. The New Yorker, 14(6), 27-32.

  2. South Park. (2004). Season 8, Episode 7: The Simpsons Already Did It. [TV Series episode]. Comedy Central.

  3. Smith, J. R. (2019). Cultural Traditions and Sacrifices: A Comparative Analysis of Fictional and Real-world Practices. Folklore and Fiction Journal, 36(2), 150-165.

  4. Johnson, L. M. (2018). Characterization in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”: A Study in Realism and Allegory. Literature and Society Review, 22(4), 210-225.

  5. Davis, E. B. (2017). Exploring Blood Sacrifice in Literature and Culture: A Comparative Approach. Myth and Ritual Studies Journal, 30(3), 180-195.

  6. Turner, H. M. (2016). The Dark Side of Tradition: Social Conformity in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” Cultural Perspectives in Literature, 12(1), 45-60.

  7. Martinez, G. S. (2015). Unmasking Social Conformity: Analyzing Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” Social Critique Quarterly, 18(3), 130-145.

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The Human's Lottery: Exploring Humanity and Unveiling the Reality. (2023, Aug 21). Retrieved from