The History of the Lottery

Often, when there is high demand for something that is limited, a lottery is run to make the process fair. Whether it is the allocation of units in a subsidized housing block or kindergarten placements at a reputable public school, a lottery makes sure that everyone has an equal chance of winning. In addition, the lottery can also be used to dish out money for a number of reasons. It can be found in professional sports where players can pay to get a number on a ticket, or it can be used for state-sponsored lotteries that dish out big cash prizes to paying participants.

As Cohen explains, the lottery’s early history is “characterized politically by an exigency that made it attractive to many people who would otherwise not gamble.” In fact, in the immediate post-World War II period, states were trying to expand their social safety nets but needed more money. Lotteries were an easy way to raise revenue without raising taxes. Many states, including the one where Jackson set The Lottery, ran state-sponsored lotteries. In addition, private lotteries were very popular in the United States. They helped finance the construction of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton and even the Continental Congress’ attempt to hold a lottery to help fund the Revolutionary War.

The story is a plain but effective portrayal of life in the unnamed village, where traditions and customs are a part of daily life. The plot revolves around the villagers’ annual lottery, which is held on June 27. As the story begins, the heads of families gather for this event and draw a slip of paper from a box; all the papers are blank except one that has a black spot on it.