Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation by Miles Hyman
Hill and Wang (October 25, 2016)
160 pages; $30.00 hardcover; $16.00 paperback
Reviewed by Danica Davidson
Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is one of the most famous—and infamous—short stories of all time. People reading it for the first time aren’t prepared for the twist ending, and when it was first published in The New Yorker in 1948, it offended some people so much that they wanted their subscriptions canceled. Those not so easily offended, though, were riveted to the story, and those who couldn’t keep it out of their minds realized they’d been swept up by its power. Seventy years later, the story continues to haunt, and now it’s been adapted into graphic novel format, done by Jackson’s own grandson, Miles Hyman.
Hyman has been coming out with graphic novels and illustrated books since 1987, and his artwork has been featured in such places as The New Yorker, New York Times and Boston Globe. It seems only natural that he’d see about adapting his grandmother’s most well-known story. The graphic novel adaptation, which runs about 140 pages, starts with a preface from Hyman, where he talks about Shirley Jackson and his connection to her. She died when he was almost three, so he doesn’t remember her well, but he does describe one vivid memory he has of her and also talks about how she’s continued to affect the family. He also talks about the mystery of the same woman writing stories as diametrically opposed as “The Lottery” and another one of her famous stories, “Charles.”
From there the book gives a cast of characters with names and drawings. When the story itself starts, it begins a little before the original “Lottery.” While “The Lottery” starts with the line, “The morning of June 27 was clear and sunny…” the graphic novel shows people getting ready for the lottery beforehand, making sure all the papers are prepared. It then moves to the day of the 27th and goes along with the original story.
Jackson’s narration comes through in boxes, and character quotes come directly from the story. While there have been a few little tweaks, for the most part this is a very accurate adaptation. The changes that are made, like the tweaked beginning, don’t change anything of the meaning or essence of the story; they just bring a new angle of the same story.
Hyman’s full-colored images are beautiful and expressive, showing a small, folksy town of hardworking people coming together nervously and then turning on a few. The tension can be seen in the character’s tightly drawn faces. Because it’s considerably more pages than the original story, Hyman has time to really bring out the characters’ movement and expressions, with each panel moving like a movie. Drawing out the story makes the pace have its own special kind of tension, and it still all comes together at the end with the twist finale. Rather than being overly morbid or bloody, Hyman gets the point of the horror across in a small amount of blood and much more psychological torment.
Graphic novel adaptations aren’t meant to replace the original works, and this is a fine alternative version to read on top of the short story, and a great find for fans of horror graphic novels and fans of Shirley Jackson.
Danica Davidson is the author of how-to-draw book Manga Art for Beginners and the Overworld Adventure series for kids, consisting of Escape from the Overworld, Attack on the Overworld, The Rise of Herobrine, Down into the Nether,The Armies of Herobrine and Battle with the Wither.