The Mystery of the Lottery

The villagers, who have been selected to participate in the lottery, gather in the town square. The narrator supplies them all with stones so that every member of the community has a chance to select a stone to throw at Tessie. As they begin to select, Mrs. Delacroix and little Dave discover their slips to be blank, prompting a general sigh. The mute Tessie, on the other hand, reveals that hers bears a black spot.

The story evokes several themes, including the role of the scapegoat in society and how communities often use violence to mark their boundaries. It also highlights the importance of devotion to traditions. In this case, the ritual is so sacred that even when members of the community recognize its absurdity they fear to change it.

In the real world, state lotteries typically follow similar patterns. The government legislates a state monopoly, establishes an agency or public corporation to run the lottery (as opposed to licensing a private firm in exchange for a percentage of profits), and begins operations with a small number of relatively simple games. In order to sustain or increase revenues, the lottery progressively adds new games and increases prize amounts.

A major issue with state lotteries is that they promote gambling, despite the fact that they largely serve as fund-raisers for schools and other government services. Because lotteries are primarily commercial enterprises with a focus on maximizing revenue, their advertising necessarily emphasizes the size of jackpot prizes and plays down the likelihood that people will win; it ignores negative social consequences such as poverty and problem gambling; and fails to consider the long-term effect of increasing gambling addictions.