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Literary Analysis: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, Trifles by Susan Glaspell, the Swimmer by John Cheever

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

The lottery is one of the best short stories by Shirley Jackson. The lottery was published in 1948, just after world war two, to criticize traditions and human nature in a symbolic literary manner. The first publication was a success because Shirley received a lot of response letters from her readers. The impact of the short story was effective and was banned by the Union of South Africa during the years of the cold war. The short story has been put into play countless times and has been filmed three times since its first publication. Jackson is a good writer and uses different symbols and themes to capture the reader’s attention and communicate her message. The current text aims to analyze the themes found in the short story the lottery while taking into account the literary symbols that the author has used to put his points through.

Shirley Jackson uses foreshadowing to give the reader sensation and clues about the coming events’ expectations. The author uses a normal mood to make the reader feel calm while reading the short story, and ironies are also used to allow the readers to think of the literary texts critically. She also uses imagery to give her world’s life and more understanding when she attempts to get the reader’s mood and stabilize it. The lottery is controlled by Mr. Summers within the town (Jackson, 2021). Mr. Summers arrives with the black box, which has small pieces of paper which will be used as choices for drawings during the lottery. It is rumored that the black box has some original wood from the original lottery and is not the usual box used in the town for the lottery. Mr. Summers says that a black box should be made every year for the purposes of the lottery.

The themes in the short story are completed with symbols. The lottery results in a violent murder like a ritual every year. The theme of this story is the danger of following traditions blindly. Before the story unveils the real lottery, the village has appointed a pathetic man to control the lottery. The preparations from the villagers seem harmless when the lottery begins and as children run up to collect stones in the town square. The lottery is only made of small pieces of paper, and every person seems occupied with a funny-looking black box (Jackson, 2021). The writer explains the importance of the lottery in the town as it brings the people and the community together, but the writer pokes holes into the belief that people have for the tradition. In the story, she states that villagers do not really realize the origin of the original but still choose to follow the tradition blindly regardless. The ritual murders of the lottery have become a segment of their town’s fabric because of the acceptance of the lottery tradition.

The themes are accompanied by symbolism; for instance, the black box accompanies the theme of the danger of the lottery. The old black box represents the lottery tradition and the illogic loyalty of the villagers to it. As the story mentions, the black box is falling apart, but the villagers are willing to replace it. This signifies that the villagers are not yet ready to let go of their old traditions despite what it makes them go through. They found their attachment to the black box to the idea that the black box was made from an older black box. The lottery in the story represents an idea, behavior, or action that is passed from one generation to the other. The lottery system symbolizes that no matter how illogical, cruel, and bizarre, the tradition has existed since the beginning of the village and is not willing to do away with these traditions. In this regard, the lottery in the story exists because a lottery has always existed in the picture. The lottery leads people to be involved in ritualist murders every year as part of their tradition because that is how the lottery is played.

Trifles by Susan Glaspell

Susan Glaspell’s Trifles is one of her most famous plays. The play takes place in a farmhouse in a rural town in Iowa. The play is based on a true murder story that occurred in 1900. As a young reporter, he reported this story and later used it to write a play called trifles. The play is ideologically one of the most significant plays of that time. The play talks about the issue of the feminist perspective, which was at its peak during that time. As the play describes, the murder happens in a kitchen, which is a domestic environment that symbolizes the presence of women in every perspective. The play fundamentally talks about the murder of John Wright, who has been found strangled in his bed, and Minnie, his wife, is the primary suspect for the murder. However, the story is not centered within the two characters but focuses on the attorney of the county George Henderson who is in charge of investigating the murder. The local sheriff, Henry Peters, Lewis Hale, a farmer next door, and Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, the wives of the two local men, are busy figuring out any evidence that would help identify the cause of death for Mr. John Wright. The two women discover the evidence in the “trifles” in Mr. Wrights Kitchen: cleaning, baking, and sewing.

Trifles, the title of the play, is a significant symbol in the play that reflects the perception that men have of women. a trifle can be defined as a small object with little importance and no consequence. Men in the play have a demeaning figure of speech and perception to the character women. Throughout the play, the author uses dialogue that allows the reader to see the demeaning factor that women face from men. For instance, at one point, she states, “Women are used to worrying over trifles” Trifles, 1987, p. 5). The irony Is that the men of the play are questioning the men’s tasks. This is evident as the men continue to run and look for evidence where a criminal could possibly hide the evidence; the women have already found the evidence needed in what the men consider as the women’s silly work.

Trifles symbolize the theme of domesticity in the play. When Mr. Henderson, the county attorney, observes John Wright’s kitchen, he concludes that Mrs. Wright must not have the “homemaking instinct.” Mrs. Hale finds this as an attack on the worth of Mrs. Wright and counters that Mr. Wright was the one who did not have the homemaking instinct. The symbolism of the trifle is evident as Mr. Henderson is seen belittling Mrs. Wright in front of other women indicating that patriarchy had dominated those times significantly. The symbolism of trifles in the story is evident when they find out that the wife was responsible for the murder of her husband. Henderson fails to understand why the wife kills the husband, but Mrs. Halee already has said that Mr. Wright did not have a homemaking instinct. This is an indication that the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Wright was troubled. Therefore, in a time where patriarchy dominated, a trifle less a woman manages to kill her husband because of his emotional absence.

The swimmer by John Cheever

The swimmer is a short story written about the journey of Neddy Merrill through various pools of his neighborhood, which turn into a journey of many years of his life. The pool area forms a cartographer’s eye, enabling him to see a line of pools that stretch to the back of his house. These pools form a river which he names the Lucinda River. He sees himself as an explorer, which leads him into an undiscovered world, and pledges his need to honor that day. Neddy shows a lot more confidence and dominance over the other men at the pool by getting into the pool and saying that the water is more than a pleasure and that it’s his natural condition. The current analysis focuses on providing the literary devices that John Cheever uses to communicate his message to the audience.

Neddy perceives that his words are unreliable, and ideally, he cannot swim for that long to his house. He lacks credibility when he says that he can swim for a long distance to the back of his house, and all he shows off is a crawl which is not ideal for long-distance swimming. In addition, when he says of his ability to swim in a river of pools, he is drunk, which concludes that he is not reliable (Nast, 1964). However, John Cheever uses different literary devices to communicate and paint a clear message of his story.

Symbolism is an example of a literary device that the author uses to express his message. Symbolism is evident in alcohol. The author uses alcoho0l to show the emotional instability and unhappiness of Neddy Merrill. The author says, “He needed a drink. Whiskey would warm him, pick him up, carry him through the last of his journey, refresh his feeling that it was original and valor” (Nast, 1964). This is an indication that Neddy is alcohol dependent and sometimes cannot work without taking alcohol. When the author mentions that alcohol would take him to the last of his journey, he implies that he requires alcohol for motivation and to realize his full potential. The author also uses the third person narrative to communicate, which puts more emphasis on his statements.

John Cheever uses allegory to showcase a metaphor in the story’s phrases, characters, and places. The swimmer can be referred to as an allegory that discusses the fall off of the aging process and the cycle of life. The river of pools which is intended to show the distance to his pool and ends up taking almost his entire life signifies that the aging process is very fast, and every person has limited time on the earth. The allegory meaning of the swimmer, which is the title of the story, symbolizes several meanings but more focuses on the hypocrisy of the upper classes. The author shows the losses of those attending as Neddy ideally feels the loss of his youth, regard for others, and vitality. The empty and dark houses illustrate his mental state during the climax of his swimming journey, which typically shows the losses of the attendants and their hypocrisy.


Jackson, S. (2021). “The lottery”. In the Mind’s Eye, 43-54.

Nast, C. (1964, July 11). “The swimmer,” by John Cheever. The New Yorker.

Trifles. (1987). Plays by Susan Glaspell, 35-46.


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