Lottery is a ritual involving the distribution of property or goods, usually by chance. It is an ancient practice, with a long history in religion, law, and culture. It is common in many countries, and is a form of gambling, though the term “lottery” can also be applied to non-gambling lotteries, such as those conducted by the military or in commercial promotions. It is a popular method of raising money, and is often accompanied by publicity and public participation in drawing numbers and selecting a prize. In modern society, lottery draws are often conducted for political elections and for giving away prizes in a variety of other contexts.
The short story begins with the villagers assembling in the town square, and preparing for a lottery. At first glance, the event seems harmless and quaint, as it is an old tradition in this small village. However, Jackson quickly exposes how harmful this practice really is. This story illustrates how people can do horrible things to one another just because they follow a tradition. The villagers in this story blindly follow the lottery, and do not question why they are doing it. Jackson’s story also points out how cruel the world can be to those who are not in power or have a voice.
As soon as the lottery is drawn, there are violent repercussions. The villagers, in their zeal to win the prize, are willing to kill a stranger. This is a tragic lesson of the dangers of blindly following traditions, and how even the smallest communities can be filled with evil.
During colonial America, lotteries were a common means of financing both private and public ventures, despite Protestant prohibitions against gambling. They were particularly popular among those settling the frontier, where they were used to fund such projects as the building of town fortifications and churches, the development of roads and canals, colleges, and even the construction of Boston’s Faneuil Hall. Lotteries were also a source of revenue during the French and Indian Wars, and the sale of tickets served as a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card for those arrested by the authorities for piracy or murder.
In the United States, state-run lotteries are legal in all 50 states. The money raised by these lotteries goes to fund a variety of government services, most commonly education and elder care. When defending the merits of lotteries, advocates frequently argue that since most people gamble anyway, it is better for the state to collect the winnings and put them toward these worthy causes. This argument has some validity, but it is misleading when placed in context of the overall state budget. Moreover, it sends the message that anyone who votes against a lottery is a bigot, and ignores the fact that the most significant beneficiaries of state-run gambling are likely to be Black.