The Lottery


The Lottery is a short story by The New Yorker that tells about the way a small rural community feels about the lottery. The story uses characterization methods such as the setting and the characters’ actions to show their personalities. It also shows the effect of different events on the main character, Mrs. Delacroix. She is a determined woman and her action of picking a big stone expresses this.

The first European lotteries to offer tickets with prizes in the form of money appeared in the 15th century, when towns held them to raise funds for fortifications and to help poor people. They became widely used in colonial America, where they helped to finance public works such as schools and churches. They also played a large role in financing the American Revolution. Private lotteries, and eventually state-sanctioned lotteries, were a major source of funding for colleges and the Continental Congress.

During the nineteen-sixties, as the nation’s economic fortunes declined, state governments found themselves running deficits. As they tried to balance their budgets, they faced the choice of raising taxes or cutting services, both of which were extremely unpopular. It was at this point, Cohen argues, that Americans came to recognize the importance of the lottery and its ability to provide a source of revenue without raising taxes.

State officials, no longer able to sell the lottery as a statewide silver bullet, began to market it more narrowly. Instead of arguing that it would float most of the budget, they emphasized a specific line item—most often education but sometimes veterans’ services, elder care, or public parks. This approach made it easy to campaign for legalization: A vote for the lottery was not a vote against education, it was a way of supporting veterans or children’s programs.