What is a Lottery?


A lottery is an arrangement in which something (usually money or prizes) is distributed among a group of people by lot or by chance. The most common form of a lottery is a game in which players purchase chances, called tickets, to win a prize. The winners are chosen by drawing numbers from a pool of all the ticket purchases.

The lottery is a popular activity in many countries and has raised billions of dollars for governments. However, it may not be a very good investment for most people. For example, it can take decades for a large sum of money to grow to the level where it can be used for retirement or other goals. Also, the tax burdens associated with winning the lottery can be high.

Moreover, it is often difficult for people to handle the sudden influx of wealth after winning the lottery. In fact, 70 percent of lottery winners lose or spend all their winnings within five years or less. The ill-advised spending sprees of Jack Whittaker, the West Virginia construction worker who won the Powerball jackpot in 2002, are an extreme reminder of this danger. The former cowboy hat salesman handed out stacks of cash to churches, diner waitresses, family members and even strangers, before eventually running out of money and taking his own life.

Explore the themes of class differences and tradition in Shirley Jackson’s short story, The Lottery. How does the writer create tension between characters?