A Literary Analysis of The Lottery


A lottery is a system of drawing numbers and awarding prizes, especially money, based on the results of random chance. While lottery games are often associated with gambling and are criticized by some for being addictive, they can also raise money for charitable causes and benefit communities. Lotteries are a form of public service that can help to alleviate poverty and other social problems. A number of states have adopted the lottery as a way to raise money for public projects without increasing taxes. The United States has the world’s largest lottery and its sales exceed $52.6 billion a year.

While the exact rules of lotteries vary from state to state, there are a few common elements. First, a prize pool must be established to draw from. Second, there must be a method of recording the identities and amounts staked by each bettor. Typically, a betor writes his name on a ticket that is deposited with the lottery organization for shuffling and possible selection in the drawing. Other methods for recording bets include a numbered receipt that the bettor must submit to determine later whether it was among those selected. Many modern lotteries use a computerized system to record and distribute the prizes.

In the early colonial era, lottery was used to fund a variety of public works projects, including paving streets and building wharves. George Washington participated in one to finance the construction of the Mountain Road in Virginia, and Benjamin Franklin supported lotteries to pay for cannons during the Revolutionary War. In addition, lotteries were commonly used to raise money for churches and colleges.

Today, a large majority of states participate in the national lottery. A total of $17.1 billion was sold in fiscal year 2006. The NASPL report also notes that nine states reported a decrease in sales between 2002 and 2003, while California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Montana, South Carolina, and Vermont experienced increases of more than 20%.

A literary analysis of The Lottery can be a useful tool for understanding the themes and issues in the story. For example, a student may notice that the villagers treat each other poorly, even though their faces seem friendly. In this way, Jackson reveals hypocrisy and the evil-nature of humankind.

The story also reflects how people accept oppressive norms and traditions, and that hope of liberalization cannot overcome such oppressive cultures. In the story, Mr. Summer is a victim of such oppressive culture and practices, yet he does nothing to challenge them. Similarly, Mrs. Hutchison’s death is a tragic reminder of the futility of such attempts.

Another theme in The Lottery is the importance of family and community. The story demonstrates how the bonds between neighbors and families are strong, even if the odds of winning are low. The story may also be interpreted as a cautionary tale about the dangers of gambling. It is important to note that in this story, the gamblers are men.