We read “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson’s stunning short story, when I was in seventh grade. It left a huge impression on me, a fact that certainly doesn’t distinguish me from any other readers in the least. 

When it was first published in The New Yorker in 1948 (some 24 years before my class read it), the magazine received hundreds of letters. These were forwarded to the author, who later remembered them this way:

Curiously, there are three main themes which dominate the letters of that first summer—three themes which might be identified as bewilderment, speculation and plain old-fashioned abuse. In the years since then, during which the story has been anthologized, dramatized, televised, and even — in one completely mystifying transformation — made into a ballet, the tenor of letters I receive has changed. I am addressed…

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