The Lottery Writing Assignments

Shirley Jackson regarding the letters she received after publishing The Lottery

Curiously, there are three main themes which dominate the letters of that first summer–three themes which might be identified as bewilderment, speculation, and plain old-fashioned abuse. In the years since then, during which the story has been anthologized, dramatized, televised, and even–in one completely mystifying transformation–made into a ballet, the tenor of letters I receive has changed. I am addressed more politely, as a rule, and the letters largely confine themselves to questions like what does this story mean? The general tone of the early letters, however, was a kind of wide-eyed, shocked innocence. People at first were not so much concerned with what the story meant; what they wanted to know was where these lotteries were held, and whether they could go there and watch.

Assignment 1
Work with a partner to complete task A and B.
Task A. Imagine you live in 1948 have just read The Lottery (originally published in The New Yorker, June 28, 1948).

Write a letter to Shirley Jackson.

Task B. Imagine you are Shirley Jackson and you have just read a letter from your audience in response to “The Lottery” during the summer of 1948.

Write a letter in response to that letter.

Assignment 2
Write a post examining the cause and function of violence in your life in 2009.

  • 30-2: select appropriate detail from your personal experience to include in your analysis
  • 30-1: select appropriate detail (image–
    >symbol–>archetype) from The Lottery to include in your analysis
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