What is a Lottery?
A lottery is a game of chance in which winners are selected at random. Lotteries are popular forms of gambling, encouraging people to pay a small amount of money to be in with a chance of winning a large sum of money. They are also used in sports team drafts, the allocation of scarce medical treatment, and other decision-making situations. The first recorded lottery games to offer tickets with prize money were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century. Some towns reportedly held them in order to raise funds for town fortifications, and others used them as a tax-exempt method of funding public goods.
Those who play the lottery often do so on the basis of expected utility. If the entertainment value of playing is high enough for an individual, the disutility of monetary loss is likely to be outweighed by the combined expected utility of monetary and non-monetary gains. This explains why even people who don’t usually gamble will buy tickets for the Powerball jackpot or Mega Millions.
Jackson’s use of language hints at the morally dubious nature of the lottery event. She mentions that “the children assembled first, of course,” which reflects the way in which children are viewed as innocent. This contrasts with the way in which the townfolk behave towards one another, as they “greeted each other and exchanged bits of gossip… handling each other without a flinch of sympathy.” It is clear that Jackson condemns humankind’s hypocrisy and evil nature.