When you buy a lottery ticket, you’re playing for a prize. The prize varies, depending on the game. But the common elements are a set of numbers, a draw mechanism (often involving a random number generator), and a means to gather and pool all stakes, even those made by people who don’t play themselves.
In the earliest cases, lotteries were deployed as a party game during Roman Saturnalia celebrations or, later, as a method of divining God’s will (at least one biblical character favored it). Eventually, the practice spread to the Low Countries, where municipal governments used them to raise money for town fortifications and charity for the poor. By the fourteen-hundreds, it had made its way to England, where Queen Elizabeth I chartered the nation’s first lottery, reserving its profits for “reparation of the Havens and strength of the Realme.” Each ticket cost ten shillings, which was a substantial sum at the time.
Lottery advocates, no longer able to sell the idea that a lottery would float most of a state budget, began to argue that it would cover a single line item, usually education, but sometimes elder care or public parks or aid for veterans. This strategy allowed them to frame the debate about legalization in terms that appealed to voters’ sense of social responsibility. It also, in many cases, hid the fact that the lottery was not only gambling but also a form of addiction.
Cohen argues that the modern incarnation of the lottery began in the nineteen-seventies, when growing awareness about all the money to be won collided with a crisis in state funding. Lottery sales rose along with a widening income gap, increasing unemployment, and rising poverty rates. They increased further when state officials began heavily promoting them in neighborhoods that were disproportionately poor, Black, or Latino.
The story begins with Mr. Summers, a man who represents authority in the community, taking out a black box and stirring up the papers inside. He explains to the members of the community that they are taking part in an ancient tradition. Then he tells the audience that one of the members of the community will win the grand prize.
Despite all the warning signs, most of the villagers take part in the lottery. They do so, in large part, because they believe that it is the only way they can improve their lives. They are blind to the fact that it is a scam.
In the end, the villagers are disappointed with their results. They realize that they’ve been fooled and begin to turn against one another. Ultimately, Mrs. Delacroix’s actions speak volumes. Her willingness to choose the biggest rock amongst all the others indicates that she is not someone to be trifled with. Her determination and temper make her a formidable opponent. She is a character who shows how characterization methods can be effectively used to show readers the meaning of a short story. It is in her actions that the readers come to understand the meaning of The Lottery.