Caleb Sylvest

Designer, Developer, Maker of Things

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The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Reading in school never made much sense to me for two reasons: 1. the majority of the literature we were required to read, in my opinion and to most of my classmates, sucked. 2. everytime we read a story that, to my surprise, delighted me and I greatly enjoyed, the majority of my classmates would hate it (mostly thinking of the couple of light sci-fi stories, which really were not sci-fi at all). One story that impacted me and stuck with me (not sci-fi) was the short story The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. Shirley Jackson is known primarily for horror fiction, which I can't say I have read or have any interest in reading, but reading her seven page short story in eight grade made a great impression on me.

The full text: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

My thoughts:

The story can be read on the surface as a deeply horrific tale, but the underlying meaning and metaphors are quite extensive. In seven pages the reader is guided and personally involved in a small town gathering in an unnamed village, I think we can all picture the story from the start and feel a sense of understanding and belonging and Mrs. Jackson sets the stage.

The lighted hearted town gathering quickly turns dark as the meaning of the lottery dawns on the reader and the town subsequently turns on the "winner". The story really requires multiple readings to truly grasp the subtlety and sheer genius of such a short story.

I contemplated the meaning of the story and wrote out groupings of words and feelings I felt relevant. Then I researched the background of the story to understand the timing and Mrs. Jackson's meaning behind the story (really good stuff, I suggest you look it up). 

My sketches:

My sketches vary from elaborate and detailed to simple and vague. I scribbled out several ideas with minimal notes considering which direction to go. There are plenty of symbols in the story to tap into, e.g. the box, the slips, the rocks, as well as distinct scenes or events. I certainly don't want to create a tell all, but I do like the idea of foreshadowing (as does Mrs. Jackson).

Looking at the past:

The Lottery is an older story, published in 1948, so it's been around a while and Shirley Jackson has become a more popular author through the years. There have been many takes on designs for Shirley Jackson's books, including The Lottery. One thing to note is that The Lottery is for sure her most famous short story, so almost all compendiums of short stories feature The Lottery in the title and cover design.

The process:

Turns out I still have charcoal sticks leftover from college! Yeah, I may be a borderline hoarder ;)

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