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The Lottery | Study Guide

Shirley Jackson

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Shirley Jackson | Biography


Shirley Jackson was born in San Francisco on December 14, 1916 (although Jackson often claimed to have been born in 1919). She is known for unsettling, macabre short stories and novels in which she portrayed psychological horror within domestic settings. Her interest in writing fiction began when she was in her teens.

At Syracuse University she met her future husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman. They graduated and married in 1940 and moved to New York City, where Jackson wrote short fiction for magazines and Hyman became a staff writer for The New Yorker, a position he would hold his whole life. "The Lottery," her best-known work, was published in The New Yorker on June 26, 1948. The story generated more mail than the magazine had ever received about a fiction work. Jackson would receive letters from readers wanting to know the story's meaning for the rest of her life.

Jackson wrote many other short stories that tackled absurdity and abnormal psychology. She also wrote longer works: dark Gothic novels and humorous family memoirs:

  • Life Among the Savages (1953)
  • Raising Demons (1957)
  • The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962)

There have been many adaptations of "The Lottery." NBC broadcast a radio version in 1951; a television adaptation followed in the early 1950s. A short film produced in 1969 introduced the actor Ed Begley Jr., while a full-length film appeared in 1996.

Jackson died of a heart attack on August 8, 1965. New York Times critic Eliot Fremont-Smith said of her:
She was a master of complexity of mood, an ironic explorer of the dark, conflicting inner tyrannies of the mind and soul."
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