While the “The Lottery” may have less of a shock factor today due to its wide popularity and frequent presence in American classrooms, its first audiences in 1948 were stunned by the story’s violent ending and perplexed by the scenario in which this act of violence occurs. The story’s initial appearance in a June issue of The New Yorker elicited many strong reactions and drove readers to send letters to both the magazine and Jackson herself asking why such a story existed. Some readers were extremely angry, expressing their dismay regarding the disturbing twist at the end of “The Lottery.” Those who responded in this way also had a tendency to cancel their subscriptions to The New Yorker altogether as a protest against the story’s publication. Jackson received a small number of letters containing positive feedback, but the overwhelming reaction from readers was one of confusion. Many had questions regarding the overall significance of the story while others wondered if Jackson’s account of the lottery was true.
Regardless of interpretation, “The Lottery” succeeded in creating a stir among readers. A similar buzz even existed among the editors of The New Yorker as they too disagreed about the story’s dark themes and Jackson’s bold exploration of them. Even those who did not support the content of “The Lottery,” however, often acknowledged Jackson’s literary accomplishments and applauded her captivating storytelling abilities. These qualities helped “The Lottery” become a frequent presence in English language anthologies as well as American classrooms. The questions that plagued readers decades ago continue to be pertinent today, offering ample topics for critical discussion. Artists from other disciplines have even taken inspiration from Jackson’s story and transformed “The Lottery” into stage performances, films, and even a ballet. This continued exploration of themes such as the blind acceptance of tradition and the randomness of violence gives a new life to Jackson’s story with each generation of readers.