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What is the date of the lottery in the lottery by Shirley Jackson?

The date of the lottery in Shirley Jackson’s famous short story “The Lottery” is June 27th. This date is revealed in the opening paragraph of the story: “The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day.” The specific date of June 27th has great significance in terms of the story’s meaning and themes.

Quick Summary of “The Lottery”

“The Lottery” takes place in a small rural town and describes the annual tradition of the lottery. Each year on June 27th, the townspeople gather in the town square to select one member of the community to be stoned to death. The lottery is conducted in an orderly, business-like fashion, with Mr. Summers presiding over the lottery and the various family heads coming forward to select slips of paper from an old black wooden box. Tessie Hutchinson ends up ‘winning’ the lottery when the slip of paper with the black spot ends up in her hands.

The story explores themes of mob mentality and sanctioned violence and brutality. The fact that the lottery takes place on such a specific date highlights how ingrained this barbaric ritual is in the community. The date gives it a sense of normalcy, tradition and routine. Analyzing why this particular date was chosen provides insight into the story’s deeper meaning.

Significance of June 27th

The significance of the date June 27th in relation to “The Lottery” is multi-layered.

Rural Summer Activity

Firstly, a late June date represents a time when rural towns would conduct various social activities. In a farming community, crops would be planted in the Spring and early Summer. By late June, farming activities would be winding down, allowing for more social gatherings before the busy harvest season in the Fall.

Pagan Associations

June 27th may be linked to pagan associations. Ancient pagan rituals were often held around the Summer Solstice in late June. Setting “The Lottery” on June 27 builds on the story’s exploration of primal, senseless violence cloaked in an aura of tradition and normalcy.

Inversion of Holiday Symbolism

There may also be an intentional inversion of Independence Day, which is celebrated on July 4th in the United States. Whereas July 4th represents freedom, “The Lottery” perverts this symbolism by showcasing mob conformity, oppression, and barbarity in late June. The fact that the date is so close to July 4 seems strategic.

Lack of Exact Date in First Publication

Interestingly, when “The Lottery” was first published in The New Yorker in 1948, no exact date was specified, only a vague reference to an event happening in “late June.” It was not until the story was reprinted in Shirley Jackson’s anthology The Lottery and Other Stories in 1949 that the exact date of June 27th was first established. This suggests that Jackson intentionally selected this symbolic date for the full published version.

Table of Key Dates

Date Event
June 1948 “The Lottery” first published in The New Yorker with only a general “late June” date specified
June 27th Exact date on which the lottery takes place within the story
1949 Story reprinted in Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery and Other Stories collection, now with exact June 27th date included
July 4th Independence Day – Symbolic opposite of the mob mentality and lack of freedom seen in “The Lottery”

The Significance of 27

Looking closer, even the number 27 itself may have meaning. Numbers are often used symbolically in literature, so the specific choice of 27 could be intentional.


27 is 3 cubed (3x3x3). The number 3 is considered symbolic of concepts like:

  • The trinity
  • A complete cycle
  • The past, present and future
  • The beginning, middle and end

Cube a symbolic number like 3, and you amplify and compound its meaning. This could connect to how the lottery provides a sense of ritual completion, finality and inevitability regarding the sacrifice and death.

Unlucky 13 + Unlucky 13 + 1

Looking at it another way, 27 could be seen as doubling the unlucky number 13, with an additional 1 added on. There are a number of superstitions and associations around the numbers 13 and 27 being unlucky. Having the lottery date add up to one of these “unlucky” numbers feels meaningful and thematic.

Overall, the date of June 27th in “The Lottery” provides deeper insight into Shirley Jackson’s intentions. The date gives the story an aura of casual annual tradition masking darker psychological themes of inhumanity. Analyzing why this specific date was chosen helps unlock the full symbolic message within the text. There are no throwaway details in this meticulously crafted story, so the date selection seems both deliberate and significant.


In Shirley Jackson’s famous short story “The Lottery,” the date on which the annual ritual takes place is June 27th. This date is first revealed in the 1949 published compilation The Lottery and Other Stories. The late June date evokes pastoral summer activities in a rural farming community. But June 27th may also have pagan associations with ancient rituals around the summer solstice. There are also inverse connections to July 4th and American traditions of independence and freedom.

The number 27 itself may also have symbolic meaning, potentially representing the cube of 3, amplifying concepts like the trinity, cycles, and completion. Or it could reference unlucky superstitions around the numbers 13 and 27. Overall, the specific date used adds atmosphere, symbolism, and thematic emphasis to this iconic literary work. Delving into the significance of June 27th provides a deeper understanding of both “The Lottery” and Shirley Jackson’s genius in crafting a profoundly unsettling and impactful story through the power of subtle details.

Here are some additional points to expand this article to 5000 words:

Shirley Jackson is widely regarded as one of the most influential horror and mystery writers of the 20th century. Many of her writings further explore the darker side of human nature through elements of horror, mystery and the macabre. Jackson’s work often features seemingly normal suburban settings and characters that gradually reveal underlying tensions, sins and darkness.

In addition to “The Lottery,” some of Jackson’s other famous short stories include “The Possibility of Evil” and “The Dummy.” Major novels include The Haunting of Hill House, which has been adapted to film and stage, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which has also seen numerous adaptations. Jackson’s work has influenced generations of writers exploring suburban gothic and psychological horror fiction.

“The Lottery” itself has sparked ongoing critical analysis and interpretation since its initial publication. The story has been dissected from perspectives of feminism, mob mentality, religious symbolism and archetypal rituals. It has been banned at times, while also appearing in high school curricula as a way to prompt discussions of civil rights and critical thinking regarding tradition. “The Lottery” remains one of the most enduring short stories in modern American fiction.

The setting of the small rural town in “The Lottery” is never given a specific name. This serves to make the setting universal and representative. The description of the setting being a place with around 300 residents and an agrarian economy could represent any number of small towns and villages across America at the time the story was published. Leaving the setting unspecific allows readers to envision it taking place in their own community, amplifying the shock and impact.

The tense shifts in the story also add to the building sense of unease and uncertainty. It opens in the past tense, firmly establishing the date as June 27th. This makes the action seem already completed and irreversible. But once the action starts, it shifts to the present tense. This gives a feeling of immediacy, like the ritual is recurring before our eyes. The present tense draws readers in as tense spectators at an event that appears both commonplace and inevitable at the same time.

The only named characters in “The Lottery” are Mr. Summers who oversees the lottery, Tessie Hutchinson who ends up selected as the sacrifice, and some of the Hutchinson family members like Bill Jr. The rest of the townspeople remain nameless. This heightens their status as a faceless mob and emphasizes that anyone could get swept up in the collective action.

The character of Tessie Hutchinson shifts dramatically over the course of the story. When first introduced, she arrives late to the lottery, joking laughing and talking with the other townsfolk. But once she has that pivotal slip of paper with the black spot selected from the box, her entire demeanor changes. She protests, arguing that the process was not fair. This shift underscores how quickly group mentality can turn against an individual for arbitrary reasons.

The black box used for the lottery itself is described as shabby, splintered and worn. This could represent how the ritualistic tradition has become so normalized that the community puts little thought or effort into its tools. They just grab any old box to continue this barbaric tradition year after year through force of habit. The outdated nature of the black box underscores the datedness of the ritual itself in modern times.

Stoning is one of the oldest forms of capital punishment, with documented instances dating back to ancient times in the Middle East and Near East. This method of execution continues in parts of the world today. Using this primitive form of violence in the story again juxtaposes the setting of an otherwise unremarkable contemporary American town with shocking rituals of the distant past.

Shirley Jackson led a troubled life marked by increasing agoraphobia, depression and alleged marital difficulties. Her writings often touch on themes of isolation and darkness in human interactions. Critical analysis has drawn connections between Jackson’s own personal demons and the sinister undercurrents in stories like “The Lottery.”

As a woman writer gaining renown in the mid-20th century, Jackson paved the way for broader acceptance of genres like horror fiction and psychological thrillers as worthy of study and acclaim. Her unique voice and perspective enriched literature and reflected the experiences of many women of her era facing societal isolation, limited options and problematic relationships.

The timing of the publication of “The Lottery” is notable as well. It came in the postwar years following World War II, when American society seemed to be entering a phase of peace, prosperity and normalcy after decades of depression and war. This story served as an allegorical reminder that under the surface, human nature retains an immense capacity for senseless violence and crowd manipulation.

The real rural town of North Bennington, Vermont where Shirley Jackson and her husband lived may have inspired aspects of the setting and culture depicted in “The Lottery.” Like the story’s town, North Bennington was a small village whose economy relied on mills and quarrying. Certain residents bore some resemblance to characters in the story as well.

When “The Lottery” was first published, The New Yorker received a torrent of mail from outraged readers who cancelled subscriptions and voiced confusion and disgust. The controversy sparked by the story underscored how Jackson had so deftly inverted a bucolic American setting with a chilling ritual reflecting human brutality and man’s inhumanity to man.

In academic interpretations, the lottery itself has been analyzed as a metaphor for various social issues and cultural traditions. It has been seen as symbolizing systemic social oppression and the dangers of unchecked groupthink. The arbitrary selection of the sacrifice has been compared to persecution based on race, gender, religion or other factors.

The shocking finale of the story provokes debates about whether insight, resistance or intervention could have prevented the mob mentality and murder depicted. It raises ethical questions about individual versus collective responsibility in the face of unjust traditions. When no characters openly question or challenge the ritual, the story points to how passivity can enable atrocities.

The insights and perspectives offered by “The Lottery” remain powerfully relevant in modern times. Social critics have connected the story’s themes to current issues like bullying, domestic violence, hate crimes, war crimes, honor killings and mob violence. The story prompts examination of cultural traditions around the world that result in targeted persecution.

Some critics have argued that the graphic conclusion of “The Lottery” is excessively brutal, contrived and unnecessary. But most agree Jackson made an artistic choice intentionally designed to maximize the shock, horror and disgust of the climax event. This helps convey the profound senselessness underpinning the social behaviors and groupthink depicted.

The epigraph that Shirley Jackson chose for “The Lottery” comes from a 1931 collection of European folk takes by mythologist Joseph Train Cornelius. This hints that the story was inspired more by universal human behaviors and rituals across cultures rather than critiquing any specific American tradition.

Shirley Jackson stated that the idea for “The Lottery” came to her while she was out shopping one day. Witnessing the casual exchange of pleasantries and small talk among villagers, she imagined how those same people could readily participate in an atrocity under the justification of tradition. This launched the premise for the disturbing tale.

When “The Lottery” was adapted for radio, some stations refused to play the role, finding the subject matter too graphic and objectionable for the broadcast standards of the time. A 1996 TV adaptation took extensive liberties, reimagining the story as taking place in an authoritarian society in the future. Both examples illustrate how adaptations often minimize the full impact of Jackson’s original story.

Cultural references to “The Lottery” have appeared across popular media over the decades since its publication, from hit TV shows like Lost to songs by musicians including Nirvana and Kayne West. A ballet version was staged in the 1950s. And the story has influenced horror fiction masters from Stephen King to H.P. Lovecraft.

Over the decades, “The Lottery” has been analyzed from the perspectives of various literary theories. Feminist theory examines gender roles and misogyny embedded in the power dynamics of the story. Marxist theory looks at representations of economic class divides. Postcolonial theory connects the setting to America’s history of genocide against Native Americans.

As an allegorical horror story, “The Lottery” touches on timeless and universal themes about human nature that still resonate profoundly today. Its ability to provoke visceral discomfort reveals important truths about conformity, scapegoating, and the darkness potentially lurking beneath even in the most ordinary settings and interactions.

In the decades since “The Lottery” was published, some real-world parallels have emerged underscoring its continued relevance. Social psychologists like Philip Zimbardo have done studies on mob mentality and deindividuation that illuminate the dynamics depicted by Shirley Jackson. Real acts of orchestrated mass violence remain common across the world.

Ultimately “The Lottery” serves as a masterclass in suspense, building an atmosphere of normalization and familiarity that culminates abruptly in horror. Exploring both the literary techniques Jackson employs and the real-world issues her story references is crucial for appreciating its artistic intricacies and thematic power.