What is the Lottery?

The lottery is a form of gambling in which numbers are drawn to determine ownership or other rights. It has been practiced in many cultures for hundreds of years. Some of the earliest lotteries in America were used to raise money for public projects such as roads and cannons for the Revolutionary War. Others were run as fundraisers for specific religious, educational, or charitable institutions. Today, there are more than 100 state-regulated lotteries in the United States and several other countries.

In this story, the villagers gather in the town square for their yearly lottery. Children on summer break are the first to assemble, followed by older women and then men. Their behavior is typical of small-town life: people warmly gossip and discuss their work. The men also show their traditional masculinity by arguing over the value of their favorite sports teams.

A man named Mr. Summers enters the square and brings out a black box, which contains a number of papers. A boy from the Hutchinson family draws a number, which is not Tessie’s. When she protests that the lottery is not fair, the villagers begin to hurl stones at her.

Most people who buy lottery tickets do not do so because they are compulsive gamblers. Most are buying an opportunity to dream about what they would do with millions of dollars. They know that their odds of winning are long but they feel a sliver of hope that their ticket will be the one to win. Many people develop “quote-unquote” systems for buying tickets, such as purchasing them at lucky stores or at certain times of day.