Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Short Stories on Wednesday: Kate Chopin and Shirley Jackson

A couple of weeks ago, Sophia of Sophia’s Book Blog read and reviewed a lovely short story called Lilacs by Kate Chopin. I really liked the story so I explored a few more of Chopin’s works and A Pair of Silk Stockings was another one of her stories that I liked. I also stumbled upon a story by Shirley Jackson named The Lottery. Apparently, it is her best-known work and a popular American short story. Sadly, I had never heard of the author or the story before but I’m definitely going to be reading more of her now.  Okay, so onto the stories.

A Pair of Silk Stockings
Mrs Sommers is a sensible woman.  So, when she finds herself unexpectedly richer by fifteen dollars, she makes plans to use the money sensibly. All of her children could have fresh new clothes and hats and stockings. However, Mrs Sommers’ sensible plans are derailed by a pair of silk stockings. 
This is not a twist in the end tale. There are no surprises here. But I really liked the way Chopin treats her protagonist. Mrs Sommers is instantly recognizable. We all know women like her to whom, ordinarily, self-indulgence is a bad word. The whole story revolves around just one character and a few hours in her life. Nothing remotely thrilling but a gentle and poignant read. You can find it here.

The Lottery
 Its lottery day in a small village in America. There is a palpable sense of excitement and anticipation in the air. The preparations have been meticulously done and the whole village has gathered to witness the important event. This particular lottery has been around for a very long time. It is a part of the local tradition, and yet, it is anything but traditional.
It is difficult to write much about the story without giving it all away. You really have to go into it knowing nothing. Apparently, when this story was first published in 1948, it really rattled a lot of people who believed that it was an attack on the value system of small town America. I cannot guess whether Jackson intended it as an attack but there is no denying the whiplash effect of the story. You can find it online here.

Anyone read any other works by Jackson? Any recommendations? 


  1. I'm glad you liked Kate Chopin so much. Lilacs was the first of her stories I'd read, and it did have a lovely quality to it.

  2. I really enjoyed The Haunting of Hill House by Jackson (good Halloween read). I've been anxious to read The Lottery ever since!

  3. Sophia thanks for introducing me to Chopin.

    Two Bibliomaniacs Thanks for the recommendation. I hope you enjoy The Lottery

  4. I have read both of these stories-I am mixed in my feelings on Chopin though she does a lovely job creating a feel for the old American South-one can almost taste the mint julips-I will for sure read more of her work

    I enjoyed "The Lottery" also-it is interesting

    thanks for helping me relive these two stories through your excellent post

  5. I read The Lottery a couple of times. It's an interesting experience also the second time around because you can better detect some of the foreshadowing hints along the way. I don't get why people thought it was an attack on small-town America... I think she was just trying to show that these kinds of things really can happen anywhere and you can't be complacent no matter where you live (at some point I will write about it on my blog).

    I haven't read much of Chopin, but the story you're describing here reminds me of one by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (I think it's called "One Good Time") when a woman living in rural New England who has just toiled and toiled for her parents all her life so far decides, after her father's death, to use the inheritance money to treat her and mother to a visit to New York City. I'll look into the Chopin story too - thanks for the well-written reviews!

  6. Mel U I know what you mean about Chopin. The funny thing is that the first Chopin story I read was Lilacs, set in France :)

    HKatz I agree with you about The Lottery. hmm... maybe I will revisit it sometime. I'm intrigued by the Freeman story you mention. I will be looking it up.

  7. There's a fantastic biography of Shirley Jackson which I've read twice- unheard of for me and a biography! It is called Private Demons by Judy Oppenheimer.

  8. Nan Thanks for the recommendation. Definitely looking up Private Demons.

  9. They both sound like really interesting reads - I'm setting aside The Lottery for a good peruse later on. Probably see you again this Wednesday, with any luck! :D

  10. Sophie Hope you enjoy The Lottery and you will see me again next Wednesday :)