the short stories comprising “the lottery” concern evil. not grandiose evil or glamorous evil, but mundane, petty evil- a distinctly human evil despite the ivy trails of the supernatural twisting through her writing.
taking the ballad, “the daemon lover” for her inspiration, she explores marriage, fidelity, domesticity, hypocrisy, and the nuances of small town living and mind set. despite their mid 20th century settings, her characters could have been any of the dull, showy, self-important people i’ve met in places such as orange county, riverside county, or even my home town of cardiff.
variations of the name “james harris” pop up in the stories, always signalling impending disquiet or disaster. where he’s unnamed, his blue suit flits from story to story alerting us to danger.
shirley jackson’s stories are restrained. often nothing overt happens, but you’re left with a feeling of general unwellness. the supernatural blends seamlessly with our world until we ourselves are not sure who is who or what is what. a man wearing a blue suit may be a respectable commuting businessman or he may be a witch spreading his evil plans among our children, sowing murderous thoughts in their fertile minds before we’re fully conscious of his actions.
and that is shirley jackson’s most insidious gift. the insight that the most obviously respectable people are often the agents of evil. we trust them because they cast themselves as the voices of tradition and realize too late that tradition favors the strong and merciless.
<— this is just because i love pete campbell and his beautiful blue suits.
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