The Lottery by Shirley Jackson


A lottery is a form of gambling in which numbers are drawn to determine a prize. The term “lottery” is also used to describe an event whose outcome depends on chance or luck, such as the stock market. In the United States, state lotteries are regulated by law and are very popular with the public. Lotteries typically offer a large prize, and in addition to the main prize there are usually several smaller prizes. The prize amounts vary, but are often calculated by dividing the total amount of prizes by the number of tickets sold. The total prize value is the remaining sum after all expenses, including promotional costs and profit for the lottery promoter, have been deducted.

Many people purchase lottery tickets despite the fact that they have a very low probability of winning. This is because they feel that the entertainment value and other non-monetary benefits gained from playing the lottery outweigh the disutility of a monetary loss. Some states allow players to purchase multiple tickets, and this increases their chances of winning. People who buy the most tickets have a higher chance of winning, but this does not mean they will win.

In a state with a lottery, the government creates a monopoly for itself; establishes a state agency or public corporation to run it (as opposed to licensing a private firm in return for a portion of profits); begins operations with a modest number of relatively simple games; and due to pressure for additional revenue, progressively expands its size and complexity.

One of the most important aspects of a lottery is its ability to generate substantial revenues for the state without raising taxes. This is the primary argument for its adoption in an anti-tax era. Once a lottery is established, however, it becomes very difficult for any political official at any level to stop the influx of money. Consequently, the principal problem for lotteries is not how to maximize their popularity with voters, but how to limit their influence over state budgets.

Throughout The Lottery, Shirley Jackson uses a variety of characterization methods to give her characters distinct personalities. Among these are the settings in which they live, their actions, and their reactions to specific events. Moreover, Jackson also utilizes symbolism to highlight certain elements of the plot. For example, the large rock that Mrs. Delacroix picks up in anger reflects her quick temper. In this way, Jackson is able to depict the character of the woman in a very short amount of text. Lastly, the story also illustrates gender roles by showing that men are more likely to commit crimes in this society.