Marxist Criticism In “The Lottery” By Shirley Jackson


The Lottery, written by American author Shirley Jackson, was first published in The New Yorker on June 26th, 1948. When it was initially published, it raised controversy. The author’s life may have been reflected in The Lottery. She struggled with depression and an identity crisis, which forced her to drop out of college. The Lottery, as seen from a Marxist perspective, is about a nameless, anonymous small town where a tiny black box decides whether a chosen person can live or be stoned and die. This short story demonstrates how the ruling class has a strong ability to manipulate the working class and how they continue to enjoy a good life while others continue to suffer and may do so indefinitely.


As much as the Lottery’s participants appear to care nothing for the ritual or the significance of its tradition, it is a horrific, brutal, and barbaric pagan ritual. In the narrative, evil appears to be an abstract force that manifests itself on all societal levels as cruelty and violence (Robinson 17). Overall, Jackson’s portrayal of the events in the narrative challenges mindless adherence to the norms and standards imposed by autocrats (Twayej and Turkie 18). The villagers appear to be united at the start of The Lottery; they gather in the village square each year as The Lottery is held. The reader learns that the winner of this tradition will be stoned to death as the narrative draws to a close. In the end, the villagers must be prepared for the lethal stoning of winning the lottery when June comes. It indicates that another person’s life will be taken for the village’s harvest.

Over the working class, the ruling class is free to impose whatever rules they want. The working class is influenced by this annual lottery tradition because society as a whole will abide by the rules and give its life for the fatal lottery. The Lottery is a perfect illustration of what happens when society is divided into the proletariat (the working class) and the ruling class (the dominant class). It is evident from how the higher class and lower class are described in terms of their social class differences. The working class is the group that only adheres to tradition if the ruling class is the one in control. The villagers are them. They are reluctant to question tradition. The ruling class controls their thoughts. Most of the villagers assert that the lottery will continue to be held annually and that there is no way to stop it.

In this short novella, Mr. Summer and Mr. Graves are the ruling class. Because he owns a coal firm, Mr. Summers has the greatest amount of power in society. Mr. Graves, the postmaster and second-highest government officer in the community, comes next. They both manage the lottery since they are the most influential business people in the community. When the lottery is not being held, the black box is occasionally placed in well-known locations like Mr. Summer’s coal business location, and Mr. Graves’ post office. Their surroundings, including the mind of the working class, are under their control.

The story demonstrates how Mr. Summers can manage the time and resources needed for these activities (Jackson). It implies that he is extremely wealthy and in complete control; he owns a coal company and is arguably the most important businessperson in the community. Mr. Summer has absolute control over the working class (the proletariats) because he has complete control over all social activities in the community and their thoughts, similar to many dictators around the world who lack empathy for their surroundings. Mr. Summers makes sure everyone required to attend the lottery is present and accounts for any attendees who cannot make it before the lottery begins (Mon 19).

Graves does not have complete authority over the villagers, however. Instead, he is given some authority over the lives of the working class. Even though his control is not entirely absolute, he is still considered a member of the ruling class. As postmaster, he oversees all mail entering and leaving the village. It implies that Mr. Graves has the authority to control communication; he influences the villagers’ thoughts as well. The purpose of the lottery tradition, which takes place every year, is to demonstrate how the ruling class establishes control over the working class by instilling fear in them. The villagers, who represent the working class in this instance, are powerless to oppose the ruling class – they comply with any directives or requests made by the ruling class.


Following this analysis, it becomes clear from this short story how society is brutally split into the ruling class and the working class. The working class is subject to complete control by the ruling class through the use of ideological mechanisms such as manipulation and fear to keep them loyal to and appreciative of tradition. Abiding by the orders from the ruling class without question, the working class does as instructed. Shirley Jackson uses the contrast between the ruling class and the working class to illustrate her point about the fight for social change.

Works Cited

Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. The New Yorker, 1948.

Mon, Thin Thin. “Exploring Actions and Personality of the Characters in the Short Story ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson.” International Journal of Research in Social Sciences and Humanities, vol. 11, 2020, pp. 16–25.

Robinson, Michael. “Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery’ and Holocaust Literature.” Humanities, vol. 8, no. 1, 2019, pp. 1–20.

Twayej , May Mohammed Baqer, and Mays Salman Turkie. “Dystopian Society in Shiley Jackson’s ‘the Lottery.’” International Journal of Research in Social Sciences and Humanities, vol. 9, no. 02, 2019, pp. 15–20.