The Lottery


Lottery is a game in which numbers are drawn for a prize. Each bettor writes his or her name on a ticket and deposits it for a drawing, whose winner is determined by chance. Prizes may be cash or goods. The game’s popularity in the United States dates to colonial times, when it was often used to finance public works projects. In fact, some of the first church buildings in America were built using lottery funds, and Benjamin Franklin held a private lottery to fund cannons to defend Philadelphia against the British during the American Revolution.

Today, lottery is a major source of state revenue in the Northeast and Rust Belt. It is a favorite pastime of the elderly, the poor, and the middle class. But the game is also popular among people who are affluent, especially in states with high property taxes and low unemployment rates. Despite the popular perception that lotteries are “taxes on the stupid,” Cohen finds that their sales are responsive to economic fluctuations, increasing as incomes fall and unemployment rates rise. They are also promoted heavily in neighborhoods disproportionately populated by the poor and Black or Latino residents.

In The Lottery, Shirley Jackson demonstrates that not everyone has good intentions. Even when the majority of a group supports an action, it does not automatically make that action right. It is important to understand that people should stand up against authority when it is not just.