Generally speaking, lotteries are games of chance in which participants purchase tickets and then have a random drawing for the prize money. Financial lotteries, which are usually run by state or federal governments, give away large sums of money – sometimes running into millions of dollars. The winners are selected through a random process, which makes the games similar to gambling where multiple players wager against each other in order to increase their chances of winning.
In the past, many people believed that lotteries were a form of hidden tax. The idea was that when a lottery was advertised, the state was able to collect money without actually raising taxes. In the early 18th century, the Continental Congress even used a lottery to raise money for the colonial army. This helped fuel the belief that lotteries were a form of “hidden” tax.
Lotteries were once very popular in the United States, particularly during the period when Shirley Jackson’s story takes place. During this time, the economy was flourishing and citizens had a great deal of extra income. Many people were looking for new ways to spend this money and to have some fun. Among these was the lottery, which offered prizes like cash and cars. The word “lottery” is derived from the Dutch noun “lot,” which means fate.
The narrator of Jackson’s story notes that the lottery, like square dances and teenage clubs, is one of the civilizing activities that help the community come together. However, there is an undercurrent of violence that begins to emerge when Tessie Hurchinson draws the winning ticket. The story ends with the villagers stoning her to death.
In a way, the story of the town’s annual lottery is an allegory for the way that class and society are perceived by the individual. The narrator is telling the readers that, while the lottery may appear to be a fun event, it is essentially an act of violence and oppression.
While Jackson’s story was set in the United States, the lottery was very popular throughout much of Europe and Asia. In fact, the first state-sanctioned lottery was launched in England in 1569, with advertisements printed using the word lotteries in 1604. The popularity of this game spread quickly, and by the 17th century, it had become very common for countries to organize lotteries in order to raise money for a variety of public usages. In colonial America, lotteries were used to finance everything from paving streets and building wharves to establishing colleges and buying cannons for defense against the British. The lottery also played a significant role in the founding of Princeton and Columbia Universities. In addition, it helped finance many public works projects and military campaigns during the French and Indian War.