The Story of “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

A lottery is an arrangement by which prizes are allocated to participants based on chance. The prizes can be money, goods or services. For example, a person may win a large sum of money by purchasing a ticket in a public lottery. The prize money may also be donated to charity, or the proceeds from the lottery can be used to pay for government expenses. Regardless of the size of the prize, the odds of winning are very low. Nevertheless, many people still play.

The story of “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson explores themes of blindly following tradition, grotesque prejudice and the dangers of letting fear dictate one’s decisions. It is an excellent short story to read with a group because it can stimulate discussions about its meaning and symbolism.

To begin understanding the plot of this short story, it helps to examine its historical and social context. Jackson published it in 1948, shortly after World War II and when society was still grappling with the atrocities of war.

In the story, a group of men and women gather in a small town to participate in a yearly lottery. A man named Mr. Summers, who represents authority in the community, carries out the lottery by stirring up the papers in a black box. Then a member of the Hutchinson family draws a paper. The man’s reaction to the outcome catalyzes readers’ realization of the absurdity of this ritual.

The first recorded lotteries took place in the 15th century in the Low Countries as a way to raise funds for town fortifications and help the poor. The lottery was popular in the Netherlands, where it was known as the “dag van de droedel.”

Although there are numerous reasons why people purchase lottery tickets, some critics argue that they are unreliable and can be harmful to an individual’s health. Moreover, they can prevent individuals from saving for their retirement and children’s education. The critics further argue that the government can use this revenue for better purposes.

In addition to being a form of gambling, lottery is also used as a political tool. In the late 17th century, the monarchy founded the Loterie de l’Ecole Militaire to buy land for military education and eventually became the Loterie Royale. This lottery contributed 5 to 7 percent of France’s total revenues at the time of the French Revolution in 1789.

The odds of winning the lottery vary wildly, as do the prices of tickets and prizes. Many people see purchasing a lottery ticket as an inexpensive, low-risk investment. However, the cost of a lottery ticket can add up over time. Those who spend their time and hard-earned money on the lottery are forgoing the potential of earning a steady income and instead risk losing thousands of dollars in the process. Furthermore, the fact that lottery players as a whole contribute billions to government receipts can be problematic for the state. This type of financial decision is often referred to as a “tax on stupidity.”