The Lottery in the Novel Tessie Hutchinson

The lottery is a form of gambling where people pay for a ticket, select numbers or symbols, and win prizes if their numbers or symbols match those randomly selected by machines. While many governments outlaw lotteries, others endorse them and organize state or national games. State lotteries often generate substantial revenues, and the revenues are often used to support public services such as education. Despite their widespread acceptance, however, lotteries are often subject to criticism for their regressive effects on low-income groups and the possibility of compulsive gambling.

The setting of Jackson’s story, a peaceful community that seems to have embraced the lottery with open arms, is a stark example of the harms that can be caused when ordinary people blindly accept harmful traditions and customs. The town’s willingness to sacrifice Tessie Hutchinson suggests that the lottery’s real purpose is not to reward deserving individuals but rather to bring in money for public services.

In the beginning of the story, the children are shown assembling in order to participate in the lottery, and it is made clear that the lottery is considered an essential part of village life. The narrator explains that “the children assembled first, of course” because they are the youngest in the village, and their parents expect them to attend.

Once the children have gathered, Mr. Summers, the organizer of this particular lottery, enters and places a black box on a three-legged stool in the center of the square. He reminds the villagers of the long history of this lottery and that the black box is an ancient relic, complete with original paraphernalia, that is passed down from one generation to the next.

After the narrator has finished his remarks, the villagers begin to select their pieces from the piles of stones prepared earlier by the children. Everyone, except for the mute Tessie, has a paper that is not blank. The narrator then asks the villagers to open their papers, and when Nancy’s and Bill’s are revealed to be empty, a general sigh is let out. Tessie’s piece, on the other hand, bears a black spot.

From this point on, the narrator’s commentary becomes increasingly critical of both the lottery and the villagers. He cites studies that show that the majority of lottery players are men, and he discusses the regressive effect that lottery playing can have on lower-income groups. He also criticizes the way in which state lotteries are run as businesses, focusing on maximizing revenues and promoting their games through extensive advertising. This approach, he concludes, runs at cross purposes with a state’s responsibility to protect its citizens from harm. Nevertheless, state officials continue to endorse and promote the lottery, claiming that it provides painless revenue for public spending.