What is a Lottery?

A lottery is a game of chance where winners are selected through a random drawing. Lottery prizes are normally money or goods, with a large percentage of the pool going to costs associated with organizing and promoting the lottery and to profits for the sponsor (in addition to taxes).

Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery takes place in a remote American village, where local traditions and customs firmly govern the lives of the inhabitants. The story shows the hypocrisy and evil nature of humankind, as the events of the story reveal that people will mistreat each other in conformity with their own cultural beliefs and values. The story also demonstrates that the hope of liberalization from oppressive cultures is futile, as people will continue to behave in such unacceptable ways.

The underlying message of the story is that lottery is a terrible thing for society, even though it brings in billions of dollars each year. Lottery profits supposedly benefit the states, whose coffers swell due to ticket sales and jackpot wins, but studies have shown that the proceeds from state lotteries are actually being pulled from lower-income residents and communities, as well as those with gambling addiction. For example, a husband and wife in their 60s made millions by purchasing lottery tickets in bulk—thousands at a time—to ensure that they would win the big prize, as reported by Vox. The couple essentially turned playing the lottery into a full-time job, and they are not alone.