The Lottery

A lottery is an arrangement in which prizes are awarded by a process that relies entirely on chance. Prizes can be money, goods, services, or even real estate. In the United States, state governments have conducted lotteries since 1612. The first state-sponsored lotteries were in Europe. The word “lottery” is probably derived from the Dutch words for drawing lots. During the seventeenth century, European lottery operations were widespread and successful. In the early United States, Benjamin Franklin sponsored a lottery to raise funds for cannons. Other private lotteries raised money for towns, colleges, and public-works projects.

During the twentieth century, a wave of new states introduced lotteries. Inspired by the success of New Hampshire’s lottery, New York introduced its own in 1967. Its success encouraged more states to introduce lotteries, and as of 2004, 37 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have operating lotteries.

In the past, state lotteries have been viewed as an attractive alternative to tax increases or cuts in public programs. They have won broad public approval largely because the proceeds are seen as benefiting a specific public good, such as education. But studies suggest that the popularity of the lottery is not related to a state’s actual fiscal health. As Clotfelter and Cook observe, “the objective fiscal circumstances of a state appear to have little influence on whether or when the state adopts a lottery.”

One of the main tools Shirley Jackson uses in The Lottery is symbolism. Throughout the story, symbols are used to show how irrational and delusional people can be. For example, when the character Old Man Warner says, ‘Lottery in June, corn will be heavy soon,’ this is a symbol of how irrational and delusional lottery players can be.

Another important theme in the story is social class. Many of the characters in The Lottery are from lower-class neighborhoods, and this is reflected in how they play the game. Research has shown that the majority of lottery players and revenues are from middle-income neighborhoods, while far fewer players proportionally come from low-income or high-income areas. This suggests that lottery participation is not simply a pastime, but something that people participate in for the financial gain and the sense of accomplishment that it brings.

A final issue that Shirley Jackson raises in The Lottery is the role of tradition. In the story, the character Old Man Warner follows a tradition that dates back centuries. He says that he plays the lottery because his family has always done it. This shows how much the traditions of certain societies can shape a person’s life and even dictate what they do. For instance, in The Lottery, the traditional belief is that a woman who has a lot of children is lucky. This belief is so ingrained in the culture that it permeates the entire community and influences how people live their lives. The same can be said for the use of symbols like the number three in this story.