What is a Lottery?

A lottery is a game of chance in which participants have the chance to win money or goods by drawing numbers or symbols. It is generally governed by law and is run by a state or a private organization. The word lottery is probably derived from the Dutch noun lot, meaning fate or fortune. The first known lotteries were conducted in the Middle Ages to finance construction of public buildings, such as churches and universities. In modern times, state-sponsored lotteries are common in many countries and are often a major source of income for governments.

Shirley Jackson’s story The Lottery is a tale of mob mentality, injustice, and scapegoating that still resonates 70 years later. It is important to read the story with an understanding of the historical and social context in which it was published.

One of the most important aspects to consider when analyzing the story is the role of tradition. The majority of the villagers in the story did not know why they participated in the lottery ritual and only followed it because it was a custom passed down to them by previous generations. This theme serves as a warning to readers that traditions must be evaluated for their ethical values and whether they may perpetuate harmful practices.

Tessie Hutchinson’s plight in the story illustrates how a person can be lost to blind conformity. Her death reveals the need to question harmful traditions and the dangers of moral compromise.