Book Review: The Lottery

Lottery is a form of gambling that involves drawing numbers for prizes. It can be played in a variety of ways, including as a game of chance and as a means to raise money for government programs. Lottery critics say that it promotes unhealthy behavior and does not provide good value for the money spent by participants. It is also criticized for encouraging wasteful spending by state governments and for exploiting the poor. However, the truth is that many people buy lottery tickets despite the risks and for the hope that they will win. The odds of winning a lottery are slim, but many people believe that they can beat the odds and become millionaires.

The story takes place on a bucolic, small-town square. Jackson’s narrator begins by describing the town’s lottery, a ritual that has taken place every year for over a hundred years. He points out that many of the villagers have forgotten why they hold the lottery, but nevertheless they continue it.

Among the first to assemble in the town square are children who recently returned from summer break. Soon adult men and women begin to gather, exhibiting the stereotypical normality of small-town life, warmly gossiping and discussing their work. The narrator then introduces Mr. Summers, who is the organizer and master of ceremonies for this lottery. He carries a black box, which the narrator describes as being from an older lottery that has since been destroyed. The narrator adds that the villagers respect the sense of tradition conferred by this old box, and even tell stories of the old lotteries’ paraphernalia being pieces from the older one.

Once the villagers have assembled, they begin to draw their numbers. A general sigh is let out when little Dave’s paper, and then Nancy and Bill, Jr.’s, turn out to be blank. After a pause, Mr. Summers forces mute Tessie to reveal her number, which turns out to be black.

This story provides a compelling look at the role scapegoats play in society, and the way that societies, especially those organized around a sense of tradition, persecute members of groups they perceive as being outside the fold to impose conformity and authority. It is not surprising that the scapegoat in this case is a woman, given the patriarchal culture of the town and its insistence on the importance of men.

Moreover, it is important to note that most lottery players are not compulsive gamblers who spend their entire incomes on tickets in the hopes of becoming instant millionaires. Instead, most of them are swayed by the advertising that entices them to participate in this “gamble”. It is also worth noting that lottery revenues do not come from the rich, as some might assume; they are largely collected from low-income neighborhoods. This fact, combined with the disproportionate amount of money that the wealthy receive in lottery payouts, suggests that there is something wrong with this process. In addition, the high cost of lottery tickets reflects an inefficient distribution of wealth.