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Shirley Jackson Essay, Research Paper

“Shirley Jackson”

Shirley Jackson was born December 14, 1919 in San Francisco, California. Her mother

was a perfectionist who forced her ideals upon young Shirley. Behind her mother’s back,

however, Shirley Jackson rebelled. She was very much into drugs, alcohol, withcraft, and

cigarettes. In 1934, she enrolled into the University of Rochester. In 1937, she transferred to

Syracuse University. Between the time she transferred in 1937 until the time she graduated in

1939, fifteen of her literary works were published in a campus magazine. In 1940, she married

literary critic, Stanley Edgar Hyman, with whom she had four children. The couple settled in

North Bennnington in 1945. In many of her literary works, Jackson used the good and evil aspects

of human nature, and also the evils which are hidden in daily life.

There is a devil and an angel inside each and every human being. Shirley Jackson used

this aspect of human nature to her advantage, and wrote several brilliant short stories and novels

that share these humanistic qualities. “Charles” is one example of this quality. “Charles tells the

story of a young boy named ‘Laurie’ who has just entered his first year of school. In front of his

parents, he is a well behaved little boy. He comes home telling stories about a rotten little boy in

his class named ‘Charles.’ Charles curses the teacher and is mean to the other children. Laurie’s

parents are concerned about what their child is learning in school. On parent-teacher conference

night, Laurie’s mother expresses her concern about Charles. It is then that she learns that Laurie

was really the one causing the trouble, and that there is no ‘Charles.’ This story is also a reflection upon

Shirley’s childhood. Under the watchful eyes of a perfectionist mother, she was well-behaved. However,

behind her mother’s back, she smoked, drank, overate, and dabbled in witchcraft.

Many of her stories contain examples of the mundane evils hidden in every day life. She

wrote of prejudice, neurosis, and identity. Jackson’s specialty was psychology and society; people

who were disturbed, dispossessed, misunderstood. She wrote of ordinary people who

participated absently in monstrous acts. One example of this quality is “The Lottery.” In “The

Lottery,” Jackson describes a small, friendly town. The townspeople gather annually for a lottery.

However, throughout the story, the reader is given hints of something unusual going on. In the

end, the “winner” of the lottery is stoned to death by all of the townspeople. Some people say that

Shirley Jackson went home and wrote “The Lottery” after being pelted with stones by some of the

people in her own town.

Some demons in Shriley’s life included smoking too much, eating too much, abusing

perscription drugs, and dabbling in both white and black magic. She was very much ridiculed by

the other residents of North Bennington. Despite these inner demons, she was still a good wife, a

good mother, and an excellent writer.


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