The History of the Lottery


The lottery is a form of gambling where players pay a small amount of money to purchase a chance to win a large prize. It is a common public service in many countries, and the proceeds are used for a variety of public purposes. Some governments outlaw it, while others endorse it to the extent of organizing a state or national lottery. Most governments also regulate the lottery and require a percentage of profits and revenues be deducted as costs and administrative expenses.

Despite the fact that the drawing of lots to determine ownership or other rights has a long history in human culture (including several instances in the Bible), the lottery as an economic instrument is of more recent origin. States and private organizations have used it since the 17th century to raise funds for a broad range of public usages, including towns, wars, universities, and public works projects. The word lottery is derived from the Dutch noun lot, meaning “fate.” The first state-run lotteries were created in the United States by James I of England for the settlement at Jamestown.

In the story, the lottery is a practice that seems to benefit people in some way but it does nothing of worth for them. The events in the short story present a picture of the hypocrisy and evil nature of humans, as they indulge in activities that are not good for them, merely because they conform to cultural norms and practices.