Learning check

1. Vocabulary competition

Which group completes the chart correctly first? You may use the text and notes, but you are not allowed to use dictionaries.




religiøs sang/messen


gemytlig, munter


















en åndeløs pause


trække lod


stråle (af glæde f.eks.)






tilfældig, på må og få

a             r



at ofre


den endelige lodtrækning


bidrage til

c                    t





Learning check

2. Vocabulary and text revision: “Vocabulary mat”

No study aids


Group work: student 1 chooses the word/s in a square and says it/them out loud and asks student 2 to explain it/them. When student 2 has explained the word/s, student 2 then asks student 3 to relate the word/s to the short story. Then student 3 asks student 4 if s/he has any further comments.

Next round: student 2 chooses the word/s in another square, etc.


If one student has any difficulties, the other students should help them out.

Mark the words you could not explain and/or relate to the story with a capital E and/or R so that you can ask your classmates afterwards.






third person narrator





word associations









a chant





“It wasn’t fair”



to blossom profusely



mounting tension


“Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.”



a great pile of stones



a sudden hush


much of the ritual had been discarded



in a figurative sense



a parable


“and then they were upon her”




a small agricultural community





the victim is chosen at random



flat characters



In class: ask questions concerning the words your group could not explain and/or relate to the story.


Wider contexts

1. Reception: Shirley Jackson, “Biography of a Story”

Shirley Jackson, “Biography of a Story” (1960)

“Biography of a Story” is the first half of a lecture Shirley Jackson delivered at colleges and writers’ conferences in her last year. The second half of the lecture consists of quotes from the letters she received and her reaction to them. She was so disgusted by these letters that she promised her audience at the conclusion of her talk that “I am out of the lottery business for good.”



1. What do you think? Answer the following statements and then read the text and check if your answers were right.


Before “The Lottery” was published, Shirley Jackson thought that it was just another story. There was nothing special about it.

















The idea of the story had been with Shirley Jackson for a long time.
















Shirley Jackson spent a lot of time revising the story.
















The author’s agent liked the story.
















The fiction editor of The New Yorker liked the story.
















The fiction editor asked for a lot of changes.
















Shirley Jackson told the editor how to interpret the story.
















Out of the three hundred letters Shirley Jackson received the summer “The Lottery” was published, only 13 were positive.






The story received more mail than any other piece of fiction The New Yorker had ever published.






Some people cancelled their subscriptions to The New Yorker because it had published “The Lottery”.






People wanted to know where these lotteries were held and whether they could go and visit.






"The story and it's writer: an introduction to short fiction" edited by Ann Charters (pp. 877-880) 


Ver´mont     state on the east coast of the US
´casual     afslappet
stroller     klapvogn
put an edge to something     give noget et særligt bid, skarphed
draft     udkast
to fuss with     (her) ændre ved
gratifi´cation     tilfredsstillelse
editor     redaktør
coin´cide     falde sammen med
´issue     udgave, nummer
en´large upon     uddybe
´puzzling     forvirrende
an´ticipate     imødese med glæde
´flattered     smigret
´cryptic     gådefuld
up´lifted     glad, håbefuld
per´ceive     se
pro´nounced     udtalt
´vehement     voldsom; showing very strong feelings, especially anger
batch     bunke
carbon     kopi
cross section     tværsnit
´gullible     godtroende, let at narre
i´lliterate     uvidende
´issue     udsende
sub´scription     abonnement
be´wilderment     forvirring
a´buse     skældsord
tenor     hovedindhold, tendens
con´fine     begrænse



  1. Sum up in 50 words what happens on the morning of June 28, 1948.
  2. Why is Shirley Jackson surprised by people’s reactions?
  3. Which three main themes dominated the letters?
  4. Why do you think the story created such a fuss? Do you think that nowadays it would create a 
      similar fuss?
  5. What impression do you get of Shirley Jackson from this lecture?
  6. Is the text a good lecture? Why/why not? 
  7. Does knowing about the reception of the book add anything to your understanding of or 

      interest in the short story?



Wider contexts

2. Critical context: a feminist reading

“Some recent reviewers of “The Lottery” tend to classify the story as feminist literature. They maintain that Jackson highlights the negative aspects of patriarchal societies through her telling of the lottery ritual. In the story, men draw for their family, and women are treated as possessions or subordinates. For example, when Tessie dares to question the method of drawing, her husband tells her to shut up. Some critics have also noted that the method of the ritual itself helps guarantee the traditional role of women as mothers in the village. Fritz Oehlschlaeger states in Essays in Literature that ‘the nature of the process by which the victim is selected gives each woman a very clear incentive to produce the largest possible family.’”

Gale Cengage, eNotes


Does this view of the text enhance your understanding of the story? If so, how?


Wider contexts

3. Historical context: quote by literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, and America in the late forties and early fifties

In his preface to a posthumous anthology of Shirley Jackson’s work The Magic of Shirley Jackson (1965), Shirley Jackson’s husband, literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman writes,

 “Despite a fair degree of popularity […] Shirley Jackson´s work and its nature and purpose have been very little understood. Her fierce visions of dissociation and madness, of alienation and withdrawal, of cruelty and terror, have been taken to be personal, even neurotic, fantasies. Quite the reverse: they are a sensitive and faithful anatomy of our times, fitting symbols for our distressing world of the concentration camp and the Bomb.  She was always proud that the Union of South Africa banned ‘The Lottery,’ and she felt that they at least understood the story.   

Shirley Jackson’s own preferred reading was Jane Austen or Samuel Richardson [...] But she was far too honest to write like Miss Austen or Richardson in our fragmented or fragmenting times.”

  1. What is Hyman’s main point?
  2. Find information about the American society and the important political issues in the US in the late forties and early fifties. Focus on the aftermath of the Second World War, the fear of Communism, McCarthy and the Cold War, and try to relate “The Lottery” to the times in which it was written.

Wider contexts

4. Literary context: comparison with other text by a different author: Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” and written assignment.

a) Write a five-paragraph essay (1000-1200 words) in which you compare and contrast “The Lottery” and “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula Le Guin on page 35. Focus on atmosphere, narration, characters, ending and theme.


b) Write an abstract of your essay.


Wider contexts

5. Literary context: other media: compare YouTube adaptions of “The Lottery”

1. Watch and compare the following two film adaptions of “The Lottery” on YouTube.  

Larry Yust’s 1969 Film Adaptation of "The Lottery"

Augustin Kennady’s 2007 Film Adaptation of "The Lottery"


2. Which do you think is the most successful and why?

3. What, if anything, is lost in the film versions?