The Lottery – An Interpretation of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery


The lottery is a game where numbers are drawn to win money. Its roots go back to the Low Countries in the 15th century. The name is probably a calque on Middle Dutch loterie, referring to the drawing of lots for various purposes.

The idea behind the lottery is that the odds of winning are not very high. This is true, and yet millions of people participate in the lottery, spending about $80 billion a year. In the rare chance that they win, they can end up losing half of their prize to taxes. Many also go bankrupt in a few years.

People can play the lottery for non-monetary prizes, such as admission to a particular kindergarten or subsidized housing units. However, it is difficult to design a lottery that is fair to everyone.

This article presents an interpretation of Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery, published in 1948. Jackson weaves life-death cycle archetypes into the story, and depicts human beings as cruel to each other without remorse. The story illustrates how the lottery has no beneficial impact on those who win it, and that people are prone to believing in and practicing blind obedience to tradition, even if it is harmful to them. The author also discusses the societal implications of the lottery, including its role in slavery. It is hoped that this article will inspire readers to consider whether they should play the lottery. If they do, they should be aware of the risks involved and the potential to lose a significant amount of money.

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