What is a Lottery?


A lottery is a type of gambling in which people pay a small amount for the chance to win a larger sum of money. Lotteries are commonly used to raise money for public projects, although they may also be private. People might buy tickets in the hope that their numbers will be drawn, but the odds of winning are low. Some people think of lotteries as a form of voluntary taxation. In the colonial United States, for example, lotteries helped to finance roads, libraries, and colleges. The Continental Congress used a lottery to try to raise money for the American Revolution, but that effort failed. Nevertheless, many state lotteries still exist today.

The short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson examines the nature of human greed and the dangers of following tradition blindly. The story begins by describing how the entire village gathers for the lottery, an event that is always deadly to its winner. The children always assemble first, of course, because they are the most excited about it.

The story also points out that the town’s customs and morals are not always rational. For example, Mrs. Hutchinson arrives late for the lottery because she forgot what day it was. It is only by chance that she escapes the fate of her peers and survives to tell the story. This shows the danger of blindly following traditions and the need to question the morality of certain behaviors.