‘The Lottery’ focuses on the community of a small unidentified American town who come together annually to select a member by chance to be stoned to death. The story addresses a number of different themes in its short text; that of violence, of mob mentality, of conscription, of meaningless sacrifice and scapegoats, of men and women carrying out their ‘duty’ unquestioningly no matter the human cost.
It isn’t the plot that makes this novel special. It lacks much action at all, in fact - but this is a deliberate attempt to direct us alongside Jernigan as he makes a series of bad or passive decisions to draw out the repetitive, unfulfilling life that he admits he would much rather not be living. Instead of focusing on drama, Gates spends the majority of the book focusing on the intricacies of his character, showing redemptive compassion for his introspective, self-pitying protagonist, as he tries to rationalize his own terrible behavior.
The first refreshing element of this novel is that Maya is unlike any other female narrator I’ve ever read. Not only is she wholly unlikable, confusing and exhausting, but she also thinks and says whatever she wants. Still, her raw honesty and humor means that you respect her, even if you don’t like her. Sharma smears foul language and imagery across every page, in ways that typically only male narrators have ever been allowed to do. Which is pretty fantastic.