The Lottery


The lottery is a form of gambling in which participants purchase tickets for a chance to win one or more prizes. Prizes are typically cash, though some lotteries award goods or services. The total value of prizes is usually a percentage of the total pool of money raised by ticket sales after expenses (including profits for the lottery promoter and the costs of promotion) and taxes or other revenue have been deducted.

Many states hold lotteries to raise money for a wide variety of public purposes, from schools to parks to prisons. Some state lotteries are run by a private corporation, while others are overseen and administered by the government. Private corporations are more likely to have a larger profit margin and lower operating expenses than their state counterparts. The lottery is also a popular source of funds for political campaigns. Historically, the lottery has been a popular way to fund military campaigns, and Benjamin Franklin held a lottery to raise money for cannons to defend Philadelphia during the American Revolution.

Despite their long history, lotteries are controversial. Some critics argue that they encourage poor behavior, especially among minorities and the elderly; others complain that they distort economic policy by attracting low-income and unsophisticated players who are likely to waste their money. Nonetheless, lotteries continue to attract substantial levels of public support. During an anti-tax era, state governments have become dependent on the “painless” revenues generated by their lotteries, and pressures to increase lottery revenues are persistent.

One reason that lottery participation continues to be high is that it fulfills an inextricable human urge. People just like to gamble, and the chance to win a big prize, even if it is only a few thousand dollars, can be very tempting. In addition, it is easy for lotteries to market themselves as charitable, and they can bolster their popularity by using the proceeds from the sale of tickets to fund a variety of public programs.

The short story by Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery,” examines some of the issues associated with lottery play. As the story begins, Tessie, a middle-aged housewife, is late for the town’s Lottery celebration because she has been washing the breakfast dishes. She draws her slip from a box, which has only one marked with a black spot. She knows that she will not win, but still holds out a small sliver of hope.

The story uses several characterization methods to make the reader feel empathy for the characters. Some of these methods include setting, actions, and a sense of character. For example, the story is set in an isolated rural area of the United States where the townspeople speak archaic European languages. In addition, the story reveals the character of Mrs. Tessie through her actions, such as her reluctance to change traditions and her quick temper. The story is also characterized by its final twist. It is clear that Jackson was trying to tell the reader that the lottery has an ugly underbelly.