One of the most famous short stories in American literature crafted by one of the twentieth century’s most influential suspense and horror writers, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” remains both a mainstay of literary courses and her most controversial piece of work. Surprisingly, since its publication in The New Yorker in 1948, The Lottery has never been adapted as a feature film. According to an exclusive report from Deadline, Paramount Pictures is looking to remedy that situation.
Set in a small New England town, “The Lottery” centers a mysterious rite known as the lottery, undertaken each year to ensure a good farming season. When a family is chosen through the lottery, the actual implications of the event slowly begin to take form. What begins as a seemingly jovial community gathering gradually devolves into a powerful and shocking tale of dread and violence. In the span of eight pages, Jackson’s skillful narrative carries readers toward an inexorable and deeply unsettling conclusion.
Perhaps second to only The Haunting of Hill House as Jackson’s best known work, “The Lottery” holds a particularly infamous spot in the Shirley Jackson canon. Its examination of mob psychology and humanity’s proclivity for savagery and judgment is a master class in unsettling style and slow-burn suspense. There’s a sense of dread that permeates the story and gradually settles over the reader. At the time of its publication, it led to the most letters ever received by The New Yorker about a piece of fiction and more than a few cancelled subscriptions. It has remained a controversial and oft-banned tale. Like Jackson’s fiction in general, its rich atmosphere, finely constructed suspense, and well-hewn characterization make it a perfect fit for a big screen adaptation. Shirley Jackson packed quite a bit of nuance and underlying pathos into this eight-page short story. It will be interesting to see how a feature film adaptation will flesh out the story.