An Analysis of the Lottery


The lottery is a form of gambling in which participants pay a small amount to receive a large prize. The prizes are normally cash or goods. The history of the lottery dates back to ancient Egypt, and there are many different types of lotteries today. Some lotteries are run by governments, while others are private. Some lotteries are very popular, and the winners can be very rich. The odds of winning are very low, however.

This analysis essay will discuss Shirley Jackson’s story The Lottery. The central theme is the power of tradition to overrule rational thinking. The story is set in a small, seemingly idyllic town where everyone is happy about the lottery. There are two significant undertones to this story: first, that people should stand up against authority if they feel it is wrong; and second, that democracy does not necessarily make things right.

Although the people in this story are happy about the lottery, it is not clear that they are aware of the gruesome consequences that could befall them if one of them draws a bad ticket. They are also oblivious to the fact that they are participating in a ritual that is likely to lead to the death of at least one person. The villagers are obedient to the authority of the lottery, even though they know that it will not bring them good fortune.

As the story progresses, the villagers begin to talk about how other communities have stopped holding their lotteries. An old man quotes a traditional rhyme: “Lottery in June/Corn be heavy soon.” This is a reference to the fact that the poor quality of this year’s corn will lead to an early harvest and that this will result in higher food prices.

In modern times, the lottery has evolved into a powerful economic engine for state governments. In order to promote the lottery, politicians frequently stress its value as a source of painless revenue. They point out that the state does not have to increase taxes or cut public spending when it relying on lottery revenues. While there is some truth to this claim, it obscures the fact that the lottery is a regressive tax on lower income households. It also ignores the fact that the money that goes into the lottery pot is taken away from other worthy causes by a small percentage of the players who participate. The rest of the money is distributed to the winners. Nevertheless, the popularity of the lottery has nothing to do with the state’s actual fiscal circumstances. Instead, the popularity of the lottery seems to be largely a function of its promise of instant riches. This is an inexorable human impulse that lottery marketers exploit. They advertise the chance to win big by emphasizing large prize amounts, while obscuring the fact that the overall odds of winning are extremely low. This is a classic case of misdirection.