Okay, so I couldn’t resist telling the one (joke) about the difference between Republicans and Democrats today in class. If you heard it, you know it’s pretty much true, and also directly in line with one of the major themes of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” which contemplates, among other things, the idea that humans are perfectly accepting of utter cruelty as long as it doesn’t directly affect them or their families. But once it does, look out! The whole world flips upside down and suddenly nothing is fair anymore.
Anyway, today in class we discussed “The Lottery.” The basis of our discussion was the worksheet students filled out yesterday. We talked about tone, symbols, and theme. We also spent some time drawing comparisons between the story and modern life: What kinds of “lotteries” can we see in our community, in the country, in the world today? We talked about everything from the oppressive group-think sometimes observable among high-school students, to mid-East “honor killings.” There are plenty of examples in the world today of the kind of cruelty and willful ignorance displayed among the “decent” townsfolk in Jackson’s story.
The funny thing is, I’ve never much liked this story, but yesterday’s discussion made it seem like a worthwhile read. Thanks, students.
As for work today, after that discussion we talked about brainstorming story ideas. One way of coming up with ideas is to browse through popular media to look for random/odd/interesting stories or settings or characters, and then letting your creative impulses take you from there. To that end, I distributed various magazines and newspapers throughout the class, and invited students to spend a half-hour browsing and brainstorming. The end goal was to have a piece of paper with 3-5 story “nuggets.” These aren’t complete story ideas, with plots, characters, and settings. These are just “nuggets” of ideas–little tiny descriptions or details that interest you. Tomorrow, we’ll take one or more of those “nuggets” and develop them just a little more in preparation for a group brainstorm.
Also tomorrow, a quiet story about a nice little girl in which no one gets killed. Finally, a story that doesn’t end in murder. Won’t that be exciting!