Larry Yust's short film, The Lottery (1969), produced as part of Encyclopædia Britannica ' s 'Short Story Showcase' series, was ranked by the Academic Film Archive "as one of the two bestselling educational films ever". It has an accompanying ten-minute commentary film, Discussion of "The Lottery" by University of Southern California English professor Dr. James Durbin. Featuring the film debut of Ed Begley, Jr. , Yust's adaptation has an atmosphere of naturalism and small town authenticity with its shots of pick-up trucks and townspeople in Fellows, California .
1. As a class read Jackson’s “The Lottery”.
2. At the end of the story ask students to write down their immediate reaction to the story and after a few minutes ask for their opinions.
3. Ask the class these important questions: Why are the townspeople holding the lottery? Why don’t they stop? From here, you can talk a little about the sacrifice rituals of other cultures, making moral judgements on those cultures. Is this writing style a type of horror? What type of atmosphere does Jackson create at first, and how does that change?
4. Have the students supply the definition of a theme or image pattern in stories and novels.
5. From their thoughts and definition, ask the students if there are some themes that appear in the story. Some typical ones are evil disguised as good, prejudice and hypocrisy, minds slipping the bonds of reality (from Friedman’s analysis)
6. In small groups ask students to look at the story again and discuss how the story provides a commentary on these situations:
— How does “The Lottery” prevent the breakdown of society in this community?
— Respond to the roles of the men and women, how the children act, and what the social and business goals are for each facet of this society.
— Sacrifice rituals operate on the principle of “scapegoating”. After defining the term, describe how the process of “The Lottery” uses the scapegoat and tell what end is desired. Are there any examples in our current society of using scapegoats?
— “The Lottery” has been used to describe the emotions of people in medicine misdiagnosis cases. Draw the parallels between elements in each situation and describe how this can be true.
7. Have the class report their findings and report back to the class. Encourage discussion and full explanations of each report.