Sixty two years ago today, June 26th 1948, the New Yorker magazine published a short story written by Shirley Jackson titled “The Lottery”. You have probably read the story as it is a fixture in secondary school English literature curricula. The story describes the ritual stoning to death for perceived spiritual benefits a randomly chosen individual in a bucolic American small town. The individual is a mother, a neighbor, a wife, and a person just like the stone throwers. The stoning is both inconceivable and all too believable. At a time when the horrors of the Holocaust were fresh and raw a 32 year old writer from San Francisco would illuminate a particularly banal brutality in her fiction.
The story was generally met with distaste. The Union of South Africa banned the story (She “was always proud that the Union of South Africa banned 'The Lottery,' and she felt that they at least understood the story" – Stanley Hyman about his wife Shirley Jackson). She received many letters that she was afraid to open. A large number of them “wanted to know was where these lotteries were held, and whether they could go there and watch” (Shirley Jackson).