The History of the Lottery


A form of gambling in which tickets are sold and prizes are awarded through a drawing. Financial lotteries are often criticized as addictive forms of gambling, but they can also raise money for good causes in the public sector.

During the 15th century, the Low Countries had numerous public lotteries to raise money for town fortifications and to help the poor. It was a popular belief at the time that lotteries could help governments avoid excessive taxation because they allowed a limited number of people to be given access to services without directly paying for them.

Today, the lottery is a major source of state revenue. It is an essential part of our national culture and most Americans buy at least one ticket a year, though some spend much more than that. The money the lottery brings in helps states finance education, health care, and other services. It’s not as clear as it was in the 17th century that this arrangement is a win-win for everyone, and it’s certainly worth discussing whether it is sustainable in the long run.

Tessie Hutchinson’s rebellion in the story begins with her late arrival to the lottery drawing, a faux pas that signals her resistance to everything the lottery stands for. Jackson uses her as a scapegoat to show how the lottery takes advantage of the average villager’s deep and inarticulate dissatisfaction with the world in which he lives and channels it into anger at those who are punished by this system.