Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Lottery is a process where a ticket is drawn or chosen at random to determine a winner of a prize. This may include filling a vacancy in a sports team among equally competitive players, placing children in a school or university, selecting a juror for a court case, or a variety of other decisions. While the casting of lots to decide fates has a long history in human culture, the use of lotteries for material gain is more recent.

State lotteries were first established in the US in 1964, with New Hampshire’s pioneering example inspiring its neighboring states to follow suit. Since then, their rapid growth has generated a number of important policy debates. These discussions typically shift from the general desirability of a lottery to its specific features, including its potential regressive impact on poor people, the prevalence of compulsive gambling, and other questions of public policy.

One key issue highlighted by Shirley Jackson’s story is the dangerous power of blind conformity to outdated traditions and rituals that can become violent in the wrong hands. The narrator’s portrayal of Old Man Warner, who leads the lottery drawing in Jackson’s story, is an excellent example of this point. He invokes the traditional saying, “Lottery in June, corn will be heavy soon,” a statement that seems to have some legitimacy in the context of the lottery’s original purpose.

Yet, the narrator notes that most of the villagers do not even remember what the lottery was originally intended for and still carry out the ritual with no apparent hesitation. They do so because they want to follow tradition. Tessie Hutchinson’s tragic fate serves as a powerful reminder that even ordinary people can be capable of horrific violence when they allow themselves to become blinded by this conformity.