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Shirley Jackson, The Lottery


Language Arts  


11, 12  

Title – Shirley Jackson, The Lottery
By – Melanie Marchand
Primary Subject – Language Arts
Secondary Subjects – Language Arts
Grade Level – 11-12
Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery – Lesson 4

Short Story Unit Contents:

Overview – Students will read “The Lottery” and respond to the themes of the story through small group discussion, and personal questions.

Outcomes –
— Students will have practise in responding to themes in a short story.
— Students will be able to use prior knowledge of elements of short stories to discuss the use of suspense and drama in writing.

Procedures –
1. As a class read Jackson’s “The Lottery”.
2. At the end of the story ask students to write down their immediate reaction to the story and after a few minutes ask for their opinions.
3. Ask the class these important questions: Why are the townspeople holding the lottery? Why don’t they stop? From here, you can talk a little about the sacrifice rituals of other cultures, making moral judgements on those cultures. Is this writing style a type of horror? What type of atmosphere does Jackson create at first, and how does that change?
4. Have the students supply the definition of a theme or image pattern in stories and novels.
5. From their thoughts and definition, ask the students if there are some themes that appear in the story. Some typical ones are evil disguised as good, prejudice and hypocrisy, minds slipping the bonds of reality (from Friedman’s analysis)
6. In small groups ask students to look at the story again and discuss how the story provides a commentary on these situations:
— How does “The Lottery” prevent the breakdown of society in this community?
— Respond to the roles of the men and women, how the children act, and what the social and business goals are for each facet of this society.
— Sacrifice rituals operate on the principle of “scapegoating”. After defining the term, describe how the process of “The Lottery” uses the scapegoat and tell what end is desired. Are there any examples in our current society of using scapegoats?
— “The Lottery” has been used to describe the emotions of people in medicine misdiagnosis cases. Draw the parallels between elements in each situation and describe how this can be true.
7. Have the class report their findings and report back to the class. Encourage discussion and full explanations of each report.

Evaluative Assignment – Using the knowledge of plot and short story elements, write a page long response as to how Jackson creates a sense of horror from the elements of what should be an innocent story about small town America. Comment on the use of withheld knowledge, the irony that can be seen in the names of the characters, and any of the other elements discussed in class.

Homework: Read “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell for next class.


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