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This month I am participating in the A to Z blog challenge. http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

The challenge involves 26 posts in April, all somehow connected to the alphabet. My theme for the month is short stories. The Story Factory needs market research, of course, so I will be reading a short story for each letter of the alphabet and trying to learn some new techniques for my story writing. My lacks seem to be characterization and emotional experience, so I am mainly looking for stories to teach me those things. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments if you know of an amazing story. Another component of the challenge is the blog road trip, where we visit each other’s blogs, leave comments, etc. While I would like to visit a couple of blogs every day, it is more realistic to do Road Trips on Sundays. (Of course, my ongoing, 52 bad story challenge is still on, as well as the 2021 creative hours in 2021.

The Lottery ~ Shirley Jackson

Back before there was The Hunger Games, Shirley Jackson showed us the heart of humankind with The Lottery. Here, a ritual much like the Tribute of the Hunger Games takes place in a small town. The population is only 300, so the Lottery takes place over two hours. The characters mention that in some of the larger cities, the Lottery can take a week.

While slowly and steadily revealing the horror of the Lottery, Jackson lets her characters talk about the ritual and what it means to them. Upon hearing that some towns no longer participate in a lottery, the older characters say that they may as well go back to living in caves. There is never a reason given for the Lottery. There is talk about the equipment, some very old, but not original. There is talk about how the ritual was different, that there were once salutes and recitals. The old box used to be filled with wood chips, but the town elders decided to go with slips of paper, as the growing town would soon overfill the box.

Some things did not change. The date of June 27. The gathering of every family and every family member. The pile of rocks in the corner. As the story progresses, the reader begins to understand that like Chekov’s proverbial gun, the rocks will come into play.

What Jackson does so well is let the reader see the characters’ acceptance of the Lottery. It’s what they do. But she presents them so we as readers can see that we are not above these townspeople. We follow routines, rituals, traditions that we may not know the reason for. We do it because that is how it’s always been done. We laugh at the young who want change, or at least a decent reason for the actions we as a society take. And like Jackson’s character Tessie Hutchinson, we cry Unfair! Unfair! When we do not like the results of the world around us.

I love this story for how Jackson strings us along. We feel like we know where it is going, but the emotional jolt of being right, of realizing that yes, she is really going there, is gut-wrenching no matter how many times the story is read.