The Lottery and Its Critique


A lottery is a game of chance in which people try to win a prize, usually cash, by drawing lots. The prizes are often predetermined and may include a single large prize or many smaller prizes. The term “lottery” is also used to refer to a game in which numbers are drawn by machines, for example, the television show “Jeopardy!”. Some governments use lotteries to raise money for public projects, while others endorse private lotteries to finance a variety of purposes, including charity, civic and sports events, and education.

The first recorded lotteries took place in the Low Countries in the 15th century. They were used to raise funds for town fortifications and for the poor. Later, they were used to support a range of private and public ventures in Britain and the colonies, from the founding of schools and colleges to canals and bridges. In the 1740s, colonial lotteries helped fund a battery of guns for Philadelphia and rebuild Faneuil Hall in Boston. In addition, they financed the colonial war effort and many local projects. In the 18th century, public lotteries were the main source of income for a variety of state and provincial government agencies.

Most lottery participants are motivated by the desire to increase their wealth or improve their quality of life. However, not all players are rational. If the entertainment value and other non-monetary benefits of the lottery exceed the disutility of a monetary loss, then buying a ticket is a reasonable decision for an individual. This is why most people are able to play the lottery, even though they know that their chances of winning are extremely slim.

In this article, we discuss the two dominant themes of Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery and offer a critique of their implications for society. These themes are highlighted in a comparison with Anton Chekhov’s Bet and other works that examine class and society.

The theme of the lottery as a metaphor for chance is common in literature and is present in both Chekhov’s Bet and Shirley Jackson’s Lottery. Both stories are concerned with the idea that people tend to put everything into chance and that there is nothing they can do about it. In fact, the lottery is an ideal way to illustrate this notion.

Despite its socially unacceptable and morally wrong nature, the lottery has become a popular form of gambling for many Americans. Its popularity has been fueled by media coverage of big jackpot winners, as well as by government efforts to promote it. Its regressivity, however, is obscured by the fact that most people who play it spend a significant portion of their incomes on tickets.

The popularity of the lottery is also a reflection of the cultural values of American society, which have become increasingly consumerist and individualistic. In addition to promoting consumerist values, the lottery reinforces the idea that there are quick and easy ways to get rich. While this can lead to a temporary increase in utility for some individuals, it focuses attention on the pursuit of wealth rather than on hard work and honesty: “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth” (Proverbs 23:5).