The Ugly Underbelly of the Lottery


The word “lottery” comes from the Dutch noun lot, meaning “fate.” It is a type of gambling in which players purchase tickets for a chance to win money or goods. Lotteries are common in many countries and raise billions of dollars each year. Many of these funds are used for public works, although some are diverted to gambling and other vices. In some cases, lottery winners spend so much of their winnings that they go bankrupt in a few years. The truth is that people just like to gamble – it’s an inextricable part of human nature.

The idea of winning the lottery is often associated with luck, happiness and anticipation of good things. However, Shirley Jackson’s story The Lottery shows that there is also an ugly underbelly to the game. The story opens with the town gathering around as an elderly man quotes a traditional rhyme: “Lottery in June/Corn be heavy soon.”

From there, it is clear that the community has decided to hold the lottery again. As the family heads draw their slips, the villagers engage in banter and gossip. Some whisper that other communities have stopped holding the lottery. The villagers are obviously aware that their actions are morally wrong, but they have no qualms about their behavior. The villagers are not concerned with the fact that they may be causing other people to be impoverished and miserable. It is their small sliver of hope that they will be the ones to win.