The Lottery

The Lottery is a short story that was written by Shirley Jackson in the mid-1950s. It is a gruesome, yet intriguing story that offers a microcosmic example of the human cost of invented national traditions. It is a powerful reminder that even in democratic America, people are willing to die for what they believe is their “way up.”

The story begins as the villagers gather in a public square. They are told that the lottery is a ritual necessary to ensure a healthy harvest. As they huddle in small groups, Mr. Summers enters carrying a black wooden box. He begins by reading names of the families that have purchased tickets. The heads of the families then remove paper slips from the box. The narrator explains that this is the oldest lottery tradition in town, but it is not clear what kind of prize they could win.

In the US, state lotteries have long been a popular source of revenue. After initial growth in revenues, lottery profits level off and may even begin to decline. To maintain revenues, state lotteries frequently introduce new games to attract players.

Despite the popularity of the lottery, many critics argue that it is a form of fraud. Many states fail to adequately disclose the odds of winning a prize; they often inflate the value of the prizes; and they have not been successful in reducing rates of gambling addiction or skewed prize allocation. Moreover, few states have established coherent gambling or lottery policies. Instead, policy decisions are made piecemeal and incrementally, with little or no general overview.

Posted in: Gambling