Shirley Jackson's 'The Lottery' Has Been Digitized for the First Time, 70 Years After it Was Published

Linnaean Press/Amazon
Linnaean Press/Amazon / Linnaean Press/Amazon

In 1948, The New Yorker published a short story by Shirley Jackson that would turn out to be one of the most controversial pieces in the magazine's history. The plot of "The Lottery" centers on a unnamed New England town where, each year, one resident is selected at random to be stoned to death. Despite the uproar stirred by the dark subject matter, "The Lottery" became an instant classic, and in honor of the story's 70th anniversary, The New Yorker has digitized it for the first time.

When The New Yorker's fiction staff received Jackson's story, the decision to run it was nearly unanimous. The response from readers, however, was less warm. Hundreds canceled their subscriptions and wrote angry letters to the magazine or made phone calls—either to express their disgust at the story's morbid twist or complain that they didn't understand it. Jackson received plenty of hate mail of her own, including a letter from her own parents.

But the controversy wasn't enough to keep "The Lottery" out of print. Today the tale is remembered as one of the best short stories The New Yorker ever published, and it often appears in anthologies of the best short stories of all time. Now, seven decades after it was first published, a new generation of readers has a chance to read the story for free.

You can find "The Lottery" on The New Yorker's website. If you're someone who prefers to consume audio over written words, you can download a recording of Jackson herself reading the short story from Smithsonian Folkways.