What is the Lottery?

Info Aug 10, 2023

The lottery is a popular activity in the United States, raising billions each year. Most people play for fun and do not take winning seriously, but some see it as their last hope at a better life. A lottery is a process of selecting individuals or groups for a prize by drawing lots. Modern examples include lottery games in sports and financial transactions such as stock market trades. Lotteries may also be used for government projects, such as units in a subsidized housing block or kindergarten placements at a prestigious school.

The story opens with Tessie Hutchinson’s late arrival at the lottery celebration. Her excuse is that she was washing her breakfast dishes and didn’t want to leave them in the sink. Kosenko suggests that this is an expression of her resistance to the whole idea of the lottery, which represents “an ideological mechanism that serves to defuse the average villager’s deep, inarticulate dissatisfaction with the social order by channeling it into anger directed at the victims of that order” (pp. 84).

The lottery is a long-standing tradition that is based on an ancient practice of determining the distribution of property. The Old Testament instructs Moses to divide Israel’s land among the people by lot, and the Roman emperors used a type of lottery to distribute gifts during Saturnalian feasts. Modern state lotteries are more sophisticated than the old-fashioned types, with players buying tickets for a chance to win money or other prizes, usually in exchange for a small amount of consideration such as a dollar. Lottery revenues have expanded rapidly and quickly become a major source of state funding, even in times when the state government’s objective fiscal health is not good.