The History of the Lottery


A lottery is a form of gambling that involves paying a small sum to have a chance at winning a large prize. It is a common practice in the United States. It is also a popular activity in other countries. Some state lotteries offer prizes ranging from cash to goods. Others award special awards such as vacations and college tuition. Many people consider the lottery to be a harmless form of entertainment. However, critics argue that it can have negative effects on the poor, problem gamblers, and other citizens. They are also concerned that the money raised by lotteries is not being spent wisely. The lottery can also contribute to social problems such as poverty, crime, and drug abuse.

This short story by Shirley Jackson is about a village that holds a lottery for every household. The lottery is a tradition that has been carried on for many years in the village. This story presents a very bleak picture of the way humans treat one another. It shows how human beings are not able to understand and appreciate each other. It is also a commentary on the blind following of traditions and rituals that are no longer valid in today’s society.

The plot of this short story starts when Mr. Summers, who represents authority, takes out a black wooden box and stirs up the papers inside it. He then asks everyone to gather around and start drawing their numbers. When he sees the head of the Hutchinson family draw, he starts to argue with him. This scene portrays the absurdity of the entire lottery event. It also reveals the hypocrisy and evil-nature of human beings.

In the fourteenth century, lotteries were common in Europe, where they were used to build town fortifications and help the poor. By the sixteenth century, they were widely used in England. In the early American colonies, they were a vital source of colonial finance, even in the face of strong Protestant proscriptions against gambling and dice games. As lottery revenue rose, politicians began to hawk the concept as a budgetary miracle, a means of raising large amounts of money without raising taxes.

While casting lots to make decisions and determine fates has a long history, state-sponsored lotteries to distribute money are of more recent origin, although the first recorded public lottery was held by Augustus Caesar to raise funds for repairs in Rome. Later, the idea spread to America.

Lottery advocates argued that state governments could use the proceeds to fund important services without having to raise taxes, and that voters would welcome this painless method of funding government. As a result, legislators and governors who wanted to increase spending on education or veterans, for example, used the lottery as a silver bullet. But when the statewide revenues from the lottery proved less than spectacular, advocates began to shift their strategies. Instead of touting the lottery as a statewide silver bullet, they focused on its ability to cover a specific line item in the budget-often, but not always, education.