What is the Lottery?

The lottery is a form of gambling where numbers are drawn at random to determine winners. In financial lotteries, people buy tickets for a small amount of money in order to have a chance of winning a much larger sum of money. The term lotto is derived from the Latin term ‘allotio’, meaning ‘fate decided by the casting of lots’. The word was first used in English in 1569, although the idea of a lottery is rooted in ancient history.

There are many different kinds of lottery games, but they all have the same basic elements. In all cases, there must be some mechanism for recording the identities of bettors and the amounts they stake. The bettors may then write their names on a ticket that is deposited with the lottery organization for shuffling and possible selection in the drawing. In recent years, computer programs have become increasingly common in the lottery industry because of their ability to store information about large numbers of tickets and generate random numbers for use in the drawing.

In general, the purchasing of a lottery ticket is considered to be a rational decision when the expected utility (in monetary terms) outweighs the cost. However, there is a growing concern that the increasing popularity of online lotteries will lead to increased rates of addiction and mental health problems.

In this short story, Shirley Jackson uses a typical village setting to highlight the hypocrisy and evil nature of humankind. The characters greet each other and exchange bits of gossip while manhandling one another without a hint of sympathy.