A lottery is a form of gambling in which winnings are determined by drawing random numbers. Some governments outlaw it and others endorse it to the extent of organizing a national or state-level lottery. Governments often impose sin taxes on vices like gambling in order to raise revenue. However, a lotteries’ ill effects are nowhere near as socially destructive as those of tobacco or alcohol, which are also subject to government sin taxes.
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is a short story set in a remote American village where traditions and customs dominate the lives of its residents. The story depicts the many ways in which human beings mistreat each other, presumably as a result of their conformity to cultural beliefs and practices. The plot illustrates how the lottery, as a means of determining the distribution of land and property among villagers, is a form of oppressive norm that has been condoned for years without questioning its negative impact on the general human welfare.
At first, the lottery arrangement seems innocuous enough. Mr. Summers and his associate Mr. Graves plan to gather a list of the village’s wealthiest families and assign them each a ticket. The tickets are blank, but one of them is marked with a black dot. The two men then fold the tickets and put them in a wooden box. The story indicates that the entire arrangement is meant to ensure that a wealthy family will win the lottery.
However, there is something very dangerous about this type of arrangement. The fact is that the lottery involves a process that relies on chance, and as such, it can have a very adverse effect on the overall economic situation of the entire village. People who play the lottery are not merely taking risks, but they are also irrationally investing their money in an activity that is almost completely based on chance.
The irrational and mathematically impossible hope that they will win the lottery provides value to those who buy tickets, especially those who don’t have much in terms of economic prospects for themselves. They may spend thousands of dollars on lottery tickets every year, but they get a lot of value from these purchases. This is why so many people continue to gamble, even when they know the odds of winning are very low.
The name of the lottery victim, Tessie Hutchinson, appears to be an allusion to Anne Hutchinson, the American religious dissenter who was banished from Massachusetts in 1638 for her Antinomian beliefs. This allusion reinforces the suggestion by Jackson that a spiritual rebellion is simmering in her fictional village. Tessie’s death serves as a reminder that those who defy tradition and challenge the status quo often pay a high price for their courage and convictions. However, those who live by the old rules are rewarded with the rewards of their lifestyle. While a lottery may be an evil in the eyes of some, most still find it hard to resist its allure.