The lottery is an activity involving the drawing of lots for the award of prizes. It has a long history in human culture and is an example of one of the oldest forms of gambling. Prizes may be goods, services, property, or money. In modern times, the term lottery often refers to a state-sponsored game in which winning requires paying a fee for the chance to be selected at random from a pool of applicants. This type of lottery has a broad appeal to people, and it is an important source of revenue for many state governments.
When states first adopted lotteries, they argued that the new activity would help to raise revenue without significantly increasing taxes on the general population. This argument was particularly compelling in the anti-tax era that began in the 1960s, when states were growing their social safety nets and felt pressure to do so without raising burdensome taxes on middle-class and working-class taxpayers.
Today, however, lottery officials have largely shifted the emphasis in their advertising to two messages. The first is to make the experience of scratching a ticket fun, and the second is to present the lottery as a way to win a lot of money. These marketing strategies obscure the regressivity of lottery play and encourage people to spend a substantial portion of their incomes on tickets.
Moreover, the marketing campaigns of state lotteries also develop specific constituencies, such as convenience store operators (lottery receipts are usually a significant share of their business); lottery suppliers (heavy contributions by these businesses to state political campaigns are routinely reported); teachers in states where lottery revenues are earmarked for education; and state legislators, who quickly become accustomed to the additional revenues. As a result, few, if any, state legislatures have a comprehensive “lottery policy.”
In the black box story, the villagers’ loyalty to the tradition of the lottery is an expression of their attachment to a set of beliefs and practices that they view as part of their identity. They are therefore loath to deviate from the tradition, even though there is no logical reason why they should continue holding it at all. The villagers’ refusal to abandon the lottery is similar to their devotion to other traditions and relics of the past, such as their annual meeting at Christmas.
Despite the fact that the events in this book are terrible, Jackson presents them in a friendly and relaxed setting. The characterization methods that she uses to describe the characters’ behavior include dialogue, actions, and settings. For instance, the villagers greet each other warmly and exchange bits of gossip. Their behavior reveals their hypocrisy and evil nature. Moreover, the fact that they can be so cruel to each other demonstrates the extent of their corruption. As a consequence, the lottery is an important means of condemning humankind’s evil nature. It is no wonder that the story has gained so much popularity.