The Lottery


In lotteries, tickets are sold for a chance to win a prize. The prizes vary in size and frequency, but most involve money. The winnings are used to fund public works projects, such as paving streets, constructing wharves, and building churches. Some states also use the funds to help the poor and elderly. In the United States, the lottery has been around since the colonial era. In the immediate post-World War II period, it helped state governments expand a variety of social safety nets without having to increase taxes too much on the middle and working classes. But, as revenues began to plateau, the lottery industry had to find a way to maintain its growth and continue to grow. This led to the introduction of new games, including scratch-off tickets and video poker, which generate more revenue than traditional forms of the lottery.

Ticket sales are generally organized by state or sponsor-run organizations. Each sale is recorded on a computer system or in paper records. Stakes are collected and pooled for each drawing. A percentage of the stakes goes to the organizers for costs and promotion, and another percentage goes as profit and revenue for the winners. The remainder of the prize pool can be divvied up into smaller prizes or used to fund public works projects. Historically, lottery prizes were often large enough to provide significant benefits for the winner. As a result, the prizes were attractive and encouraged participation.

Today, the lottery relies on two major messages to encourage people to buy tickets and play: one is that playing is fun and that you can feel good about yourself because you’re doing your civic duty by supporting state government. The other is that winning a lottery prize is an incredible improbability, but that you should take your chances anyway. Both of these messages are problematic. They obscure the regressive nature of lottery gambling and the fact that most people spend an enormous amount of their incomes on tickets.

The story in The Lottery illustrates that people obey authority out of fear and tradition, even after the defeat of the Nazis. The story also demonstrates how easily people can be led to commit injustices, such as mass incarceration of black citizens, profiling and hate crimes against Muslims after 9/11, and deportation of immigrants. It also shows that Americans can be indifferent to the suffering of their neighbors and fellow countrymen, even when they are not personally involved.

The events in the short story demonstrate the hypocrisy and evil-nature of humankind. The villagers greeted one another and exchanged gossip while manhandling each other without a flinch of pity. They believed that the lottery would be advantageous in some way to them, but nothing of value is achieved. The Lottery is a tragic tale that shows the destructive nature of human behavior.