The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

A lottery is a game in which people pay money for a chance to win a prize, such as cash or merchandise. Federal statutes prohibit the mailing of promotions for lotteries and the transportation in interstate or international commerce of tickets or stakes for a lottery.

When the family members finish selecting their numbers, Mr. Summers announces it is time to open the slips. There is a general sigh of disappointment when little Dave’s paper is blank, and then Bill’s and Nancy’s are also empty. Then Mrs. Hutchinson opens hers to find a singleton, signaling a winner.

The odds of winning are very slim, and the prize for matching five out of six numbers is not a lot of money (only a few hundred dollars or so) compared to the millions the jackpot is worth. The lottery is a get-rich-quick scheme that distracts the player from earning money honestly through hard work and focuses instead on acquiring the temporary riches of this world. It also undermines God’s command that “The lazy person does not eat” (Proverbs 24:5).

There are other significant undertones in the story of The Lottery, as well. Shirley Jackson argues that democracy does not necessarily make things right, as the villagers in this story demonstrate. In addition, she points out that evil can happen even in small, peaceful looking places. Finally, the story also points out the importance of scapegoating within society, and that societies often persecute certain individuals to mark their boundaries. The mass incarceration of African Americans, the profiling and hate crimes against Muslims after 9/11 and the deportation of immigrants in the United States are modern examples of this kind of behavior.