A lottery is an arrangement in which one or more prizes are allocated to members of a class by a process that relies wholly on chance. The term is usually used to refer to a state-sponsored game in which tickets are sold for the right to draw lots to determine prize winners, but private lotteries and other forms of distribution by lottery are also common.
Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery takes place in a remote American village. The setting and the characters that inhabit it offer many opportunities for characterization. The characters and their actions express their beliefs, attitudes, and values. The way in which women are treated reveals the sexism that exists within this society.
People who play the lottery often enter with a clear-eyed understanding of the odds. They know that they are likely to lose, but they still buy tickets every week. In some cases, they spend $50 or $100 a week. Their spending can surprise even those who know them well.
The idea of winning a lottery prize has always been popular in America, but the obsession with it began to grow in intensity during the nineteen-sixties. This increase coincided with a decline in financial security for most Americans. Incomes dipped, pensions and job security disappeared, health-care costs rose, and the long-held promise that hard work would yield a comfortable middle class life dissolved for most. Increasingly, lottery playing was the only way for some to have a chance at wealth.