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Shirley Ann Jackson Edit Profile

novelist , writer

Shirley Hardie Jackson was popular American short story writer and novelist.


Shirley Hardie Jackson was born in December 14, 1916,   in San Francisco, California, United States, to Leslie and Geraldine Jackson, Jackson and her family lived in the community of Burlingame, California, an affluent middle-class suburb that would be featured in Shirley's first novel,  The Road Through the Wall (1948). Her relationship with her mother, who could trace her family heritage to the Revolutionary War hero General Nathanael Greene,  was strained, as her parents had married young and Geraldine had been disappointed when she immediately became pregnant with Shirley, as she had been looking forward to "spending time with her dashing husband".   Jackson was often unable to fit in with other children and spent much of her time writing, much to her mother's distress. When she was a teenager, her weight fluctuated, resulting in a lack of confidence.


After the family relocated to Rochester, New York, Shirley attended Brighton High School and received her diploma in 1934. She then attended the nearby University of Rochester, where her parents felt they could keep an eye on her.   She was not happy in her classes there, and professors often judged her writing harshly, so she transferred to Syracuse University, where she flourished creatively and socially.


She was popular in her time, and her work has received increased attention from literary critics in recent years. She influenced Neil Gaiman,  Stephen King,  Nigel Kneale,  Joanne Harris and Richard Matheson.  

In 1938, while Jackson was studying at Syracuse, her first published story, "Janice", appeared, and the stories that followed were published in Collier's,  Good Housekeeping, Harper's,  Mademoiselle,  The New Republic,  The New Yorker,  Woman's Day,  Woman's Home Companion, and other publications.

She is best known for the short story "The Lottery" (1948).  In her critical biography of Jackson, Lenemaja Friedman notes that when "The Lottery" was published in the June 26, 1948, issue of The New Yorker, it received a response that "no New Yorker story had ever received".  

Her novel The Haunting of Hill House (1959) is a highly regarded example of the haunted house story,  and was described by Stephen King as one of the important horror novels of the twentieth century.  An earlier novel,  Hangsaman (1951), and her short story "The Missing Girl" (from Just an Ordinary Day, the 1995 collection of previously unpublished or uncollected short stories) both contain certain elements similar to the mysterious real-life December 1, 1946, disappearance of an 18-year-old Bennington College sophomore,  Paula Jean Welden ofStamford, Connecticut.  Her other novels include The Bird's Nest (1954),  We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962), and The Sundial (1958).  In addition to her adult literary novels, Jackson wrote a children's novel,  Nine Magic Wishes, available in an edition illustrated by her grandson, Miles Hyman, as well as a children's play based on Hansel and Gretel, entitled The Bad Children.  She also wrote humorous sketches and short stories depicting everyday aspects of family life, which she published in popular magazines, such as Good Housekeeping,  Woman's Day and Collier's, and later collected in her books Life Among the Savages (1953) and Raising Demons (1957).

In 1965, Jackson died of heart failure in her sleep, at her home in North Bennington, at the age of 48. At the time of her death, she was overweight and a heavy smoker who had suffered throughout her life from various neuroses and psychosomatic illnesses. These ailments, along with the various prescription drugs used to treat them, may have contributed to her declining health and early death.

 After her death, Jackson's husband released a posthumous volume of her work,  Come Along with Me, containing her unfinished last novel, as well as 14 previously uncollected short stories (among them "Louisa, Please Come Home") and three lectures she gave at colleges or writers' conferences in her last years.


  • Jackson's most famous story, "The Lottery", first published in the New Yorker on June 26, 1948, established her reputation as a master of the horror tale.  

    Best Fiction of 1966" includes The Magic of Shirley Jackson 1968 – New York Times Book Review's

    "Best Fiction of 1968" includes Come Along with Me 2007 – The Shirley Jackson Award is established for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.


Quotations: Jackson offered the following in response to persistent queries from her readers about her intentions: Explaining just what I had hoped the story to say is very difficult. I suppose, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to shock the story's readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives.


Jackson's husband, the literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, wrote in his preface to a posthumous anthology of her work that "she consistently refused to be interviewed, to explain or promote her work in any fashion, or to take public stands and be the pundit of the Sunday supplements. She believed that her books would speak for her clearly enough over the years".  Hyman insisted that the dark visions found in Jackson's work were not, as some critics claimed, the product of "personal, even neurotic, fantasies", but, rather, comprised "a sensitive and faithful anatomy" of the Cold War era in which she lived, "fitting symbols for [a] distressing world of the concentration camp and the Bomb. " Jackson may even have taken pleasure in the subversive impact of her work, as revealed by Hyman's statement that she "was always proud that the Union of South Africa banned 'The Lottery', and she felt that they at least understood the story".


While a student at Syracuse, Jackson became involved with the campus literary magazine, through which she met her future husband,  Stanley Edgar Hyman, who would become a noted literary critic.  After their marriage and brief sojourns in New York City and Westport, Connecticut, Jackson and Hyman settled in North Bennington, Vermont, where Hyman became a professor at Bennington College, as Jackson continued to publish novels and short stories.   They were both enthusiastic readers whose personal library was estimated at over 100, 000 books. They had four children, Laurence (Laurie), Joanne (Jannie), Sarah (Sally), and Barry, who would come to their own brand of literary fame as fictionalized versions of themselves in their mother's short stories.  According to Jackson's biographers, the marriage was plagued by Hyman's infidelities, notably with his students. He controlled most aspects of their relationship. She was required to accept his infidelities (and called her a "fool" when she expressed her intense dislike of the situation). He controlled their finances (meting out portions of her earnings to her as he saw fit), despite the fact that after the success of "The Lottery" and later work she earned far more than he. He insisted that she raise the children and do all the mundane household chores. She felt patronized in her role as a faculty wife, and ostracized by the townspeople of North Bennington. Her dislike of this situation led to her increasing abuse of alcohol, tranquilizers, and amphetamines, and influenced the themes of much of her later work.

Stanley Edgar Hyman

(m. 1940; her death 1965)

Sarah (Sally)

Joanne (Jannie)

Laurence (Laurie)


Ralph Ellison