The Life of the Author Shirley Jackson and Her Influence on Dystopian Literature

Shirley Jackson had a major impact on the world of dystopian literature, Her writings were greatly revered and criticized. Although she offended many, she was a brave author who inspired other writers to follow her footsteps to dystopiai Dystopia can be defined as a place in the future that is “perfect“; where individual freedom and expression is discouraged and everyone follows the rules. This was best displayed in “The Lottery’h Shirley Jackson was an inspiring and unforgettable author of the twentieth century whose work was both brilliant and controversialt Born on December l4th, 1916, Shirley grew up in San Francisco, CA She developed an interest for writing as a young teenager, When her family moved to New York, she attended the University of Rochester for a year before dropping out to pursue writing In 1937, she enrolled in Syracuse University There she published “Janice“, her first short story.

This promoted her to be the fiction editor of campus humor magazine, During her senior year, Shirley won a poetry contest, and founded a literary magazine called Spectre with Stanley Edgar Hyman.

They were married shortly after graduation and moved to New York City, Stanley found a job and Shirley continued to write every day while raising four children. In 1945, the family moved to North Bennington, Vermont where Stanley taught at Bennington College, The Hymans moved again in 1949 to accommodate Stanley’s new job at The New Yorker in Westport, Connecticut, The two were both excellent writers who worked beautifully togethert The Dystopian style was greatly and creatively weaved into Shirley Jackson‘s stories.

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Characters of dystopian literature include: knowledge is limited for citizens, the outside world is dangerous and unreachable, there is a supreme ruler who is superior among the people, and the citizens are controlled by propaganda, always under surveillance, and essentially dehumanized. In the setting there is one main source of control, such as a corporation, a bureaucracy, technology, or philosophy Many main characters of dystopian novels all share the same struggle: they are not okay with the way things are. They desire to rebel against the system, point out the flaws of their authority, and change society for the better, “The Lottery”, her most well-known short story, was a wonderful piece of Dystopian literature. Though it was only a few pages long, it was powerfulr It begins in a peaceful setting – a sunny day in a small town The village is all in good spirits as they gather for their yearly “meeting’i Jackson foreshadows the outcome of this meeting by noting that children have begun to gather stonesr “Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones”

“Soon the women, standing by their husbands, began to call to their children, and the children came reluctantly, having to be called four or five times. Bobby Martin ducked under his mother’s grasping hand and ran, laughing, back to the pile of stones His father spoke up sharply, and Bobby came quickly and took his place between his father and his oldest brother.“ The children couldn’t care less about what is to happen. The reader is curious as they observe each family in the town draw a slip of paper from a box, One family receives a black dot on their paper, and their entire family draws again. The wife draws a slip with a black dot. What happens next is shocking and unexpected to the readeri The citizens of the town, including her family surround her and stone her to death. This even happens every single year, and the townspeople nonchalantly participate.

Many readers were taken back and offended by the morbidity of this short story. Others appreciated it because it is the epitome of dystopian literature, The society of the story seems perfect and happy from the beginning, and in the end a character is dehumanized. These actions are normal to the citizens, for the main theme of this short story is tradition, The reason everyone follows this ritual so blindly and willingly is because it is a tradition. Dystopians are so afraid to break tradition that they will do anything to commit to it, even if it comes down to murder, Jackson even writes that the box used to draw paper from is “original wood” that would have been used many years ago, “The people had done it so many times that they only half listened to the directions: most of them were quiet” (Jackson 3). “The Lottery” was published in 1948. Shirley Jackson wrote it during World War II, which also included the Holocaust.

This was sure to greatly influence her writing. This is also the reason why so many were taken back after its publication. Its morbidity fell on rough soil, due to the rawness of the World War ll and the loss of the Holocaust still settling. Jackson received excess negative feedback, including death threats. “Of the three»hundred odd letters that I received that summer I can count only thirteen that spoke kindly to me.” -Shirley Jackson, She refused interviews, for she felt that the book should explain itself The Holocaust related to Dystopian literature because of its dehumanization and genocide of the Jews. Jackson wanted to shine a light of the casual acceptance of violence that was so present in the 1940‘s. In 1956, she published “The Witchcraft of Salem Village” in which she discussed the Salem Witch Trials of the seventeenth century. Hangsuman (1951) was a short fiction she published in 1951 that was about a introverted, oppressed individual who escapes from life into their own whimsical nightmare. She published The Bird’s Nest in 1954, whose main character had multiple personality disorder.

In 1959, she published The Haunting oinll House, an award-winning horror story acclaimed as one of the best horror novels of all time, We Have Always Lived in A Castle (1962) is about two sisters who are shunned by their community for murdering their family. Shirley was surely talented in writing of dark and mysterious tales. Some of her stories had traces of the dystopian theme; others were centered around it. On August 8th, 1965, Shirley Jackson died unexpectedly of heart failure during her usual afternoon nap. She was only 48 years old. Her loving husband completed a few of her unfinished works after her death. She had both positive and negative effects on society. While many felt insulted by “The Lottery”, it also inspired many other writers such as Stephen King to use the Dystopian theme in their literature. Her works were bold and are still appreciated today. Her legacy of Dystopian influence lives on and is studied nationwide in American Literature.

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The Life of the Author Shirley Jackson and Her Influence on Dystopian Literature. (2022, Nov 18). Retrieved from

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