Short Story Review: THE LOTTERY by Shirley Jackson

Original Publication: The New Yorker
Publication Date: June 26, 1948
Source: Borrowed from the library
Rating: ★★★★★

The Lottery is a short story by Shirley Jackson which caused quite an uproar when it was published in 1948. It’s about an annual lottery held in a seemingly idyllic village, and readers don’t find out the winner’s prize until the end.

On the day of the drawing, the weather is gorgeous, and the townspeople happily gather in the square for the drawing, laughing and chatting amongst themselves. They talk about how this event has been a part of their village’s history for as long as anyone can remember, and though surrounding towns are doing away with the lottery, this particular village doesn’t want to mess with tradition.

This tale is short, but it packs quite a punch. It only took reading a couple of paragraphs before I got an ominous feeling about the whole thing, and the conclusion was nothing but disturbing. While a 21st century reader may or may not be as affected by the ending as the original audience, the underlying message of Jackson’s story is just as relevant today as ever. The Lottery is definitely worth reading a time or two.

R.I.P. IX Readalong: THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson

Publisher: Penguin Classics
Released: January 1959
Source: Borrowed from the library
Rating: ★★★★

The classic supernatural thriller by an author who helped define the genre.

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

The R.I.P. IX group read of THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is hosted by The Estella Society.

I’ve wanted to try Shirley Jackson’s work for a long time, and now I have! THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is billed as a horror classic, though in my opinion, it was eerie but not scary. After finishing the book, I’m left with several questions without definite answers, like who (or what) exactly was doing the haunting — the house itself, the doctor and his test subjects, or something else? Was anything supernatural actually going on, or were the unexplained events a figment of an unreliable narrator’s imagination? I have my own theory, but I won’t share because of spoilers.

THOHH is a well-crafted psychological thriller that makes readers decide for themselves what went down at Hill House. I enjoyed Ms. Jackson’s straight-forward writing style, and how she was able to make something as innocuous as a cold spot on the floor downright spooky. The characters were okay. They all irritated me to some degree, and I also thought that the dialogue between characters could get pretty unrealistic and silly, like “Oh, Nell, my Nellie!” or some such. The character I liked the most was the housekeeper, Mrs. Dudley. I loved her totally weird ways.

Overall, I enjoyed reading THOHH, and I can see why the book has been a big influence on the horror genre since its publication in 1959.