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Theory Of Literary Criticism (PSYCHOANALYTIC) On The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.

I have chosen The Lottery by Shirley Jackson as my analysis for one of the literary criticism. The story is about a warm day in late June, where the villagers gather in the town to participate in a lottery run by Mr. Summers. Mrs. Hutchinson, one of the main characters in the story arrives late. The lottery began as Mr. Summers calls each head of the household, to a black wooden box, where each selects a slip of paper. Once the men have chosen, Mr. Summers allows everyone to open the paper and see who has been selected. It is Bill Hutchinson. Mr. Summers places slips of paper into the box and each member of the family draws. Tess (Mrs. Hutchinson) draws a slip of paper with a big black dot in the center. The villagers advance on her, and it becomes crystal clear what the prize for the lottery really is: a stoning. Tess protests in vain as the villagers attack her. There are a few theories of literary criticism that can be found in this short story. I am focusing on one which is the psychoanalytic criticism. It may focus on the writer's psyche, the study of the creative process, the study of psychological types and principles present within works of literature, or the effects of literature upon its readers (Wellek and Warren, p. 81). For this short story, I will emphasize on Freud theory which gives an idea where there are three level of the psyche which are Id, Ego and Superego. I am going to focus only on the two aspects level of the psyche which are Id and Ego. Id plays the largest role in the psyche. It is entirely unconscious, which means that we are not aware of and cannot control its functions. It is a product of evolution, where it is present in all people and is similar for all people. For example, all people are subject to the same kinds of instinctual urges, such as Eros and Thanatos. In The Lottery, the story focuses on the characters' psyche where it is reflected on the society of the people. Fitting in to the village society means blindly following tradition and accepting the yearly lottery despite its horrible consequences. The tradition that is irrational for the people of the town is the ritual itself. It that is performed annually, but no one really knows why. Warners corny line about Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon"(Jackson 1948: 677) brings in ideas about fertility. It reflects humankind's ancient need for a scapegoat, a figure upon which it can display its most undesirable qualities, and which can be destroyed in a ritually absolving sacrifice. Since the level of Id is entirely unconscious, we can see that in the unconscious mind of the characters which is the people in the village portrayed by Shirley Jackson, the people who forgot the significance of the ceremony yet holding on

it made it clear that they have made the bloody ritual a masquerade for their selfishness of wanting a scapegoat. Beneath all of the trappings of civilizations, man continues searching for scapegoats and thus their innate savagery shines though. In this case, the scapegoat would be Mrs. Hutchinson. This clearly shown the instinctual urges that exist in the mind of the people in the village which is Thanatos, also known as the death instinct, and strives to return to the original, stable inorganic state from which we originally evolved, and promotes disunion and general destruction of order. The textual evidence that can be found in the text is; Mr. Hutchinson pulls from his wife's hand the slip of paper she has drawn-the losing lot--and holds it up for all to see. He does not plead for his wife; he does not exhibit any sympathy. Instead, he becomes one of the executioners. The action of destruction projected by the Thanatos had left no one any consciousness toward their own actions, where they could not even feel love or sympathy anymore. As the villagers begin to attack the victim of the lottery, the children had stones already, and someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles"(Jackson 1948: 680). Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones. The next level of psyche is the Ego. The ego is the part that is sub-conscious. One of the main functions of the ego is trying to compromise between each of their urges and desires. Eventhough it does not mean that the character would deny their wants. Many of the characters in the story also seemed to be of the opinion that what they were doing was wrong, which shows that they were doing it more out of habit than belief. The only places we can see these rebellious impulses are in Tessie, in Mr. and Mrs. Adams' suggestion, squelched by Warner, that the lottery might be given up, and in the laughter of the crowd. Like Tessie, the villagers cannot articulate their rebellion because the massive force of pleasures of the ritual stands in the way. In the short story, the textual evidence given are as ; "It isn't fair, it isn't right," Mrs. Hutchinson screamed and then they were upon her. "They do say," Mr. Adams said to Old Man Warner, who stood next to him, "that over in the north village they're talking of giving up the lottery. The conclusion of the analysis is that the tradition of stoning is a very well picked example by Jackson. While people like to imagine that they have surpassed their animal instincts, their inhumanity is clear when they will gang up on a single individual using a

lie to justify their slaughter. That lie being that the death of the singled out person would be for the good of all. Set in the modern day that The Lottery" is in, such a death serves but one purpose: fulfilling the blood lust in individuals.


1. Breitsprecher, C. (2000). Analysis and interpretation of Shirley Jackson`s The Lottery. Retrieved March 20, 2012, from Grin. Publish & find knowledge: 2. Kosenko, P. (1984). A Reading of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery". Retrieved March 20, 2012, from