Lottery is the game in which a prize, often money, is awarded to someone or something through an arrangement that relies entirely on chance. Lotteries have been around for centuries. They were a common way for cities to raise money for public projects in 15th-century Burgundy and Flanders. In 1744 the Continental Congress voted to establish a lottery to fund the Revolutionary War, and dozens of private lotteries helped finance the building of roads, libraries, churches, colleges, canals, bridges, and even universities in colonial America.
The lottery is not just a pastime, though; it can be a dangerous addiction. People who play the lottery spend billions of dollars annually. Most people know they’re unlikely to win, yet the lure of a huge jackpot keeps them playing. This is not unlike the way tobacco companies and video-game manufacturers suck people in with a promise of instant riches.
In the nineteen-seventies and eighties, this obsession with unimaginable wealth coincided with a sharp decline in financial security for most working Americans. The income gap widened, pensions and job security eroded, health-care costs increased, and the long-standing national promise that hard work and education would make you better off than your parents ceased to hold true. Life, in short, began to imitate the lottery: it was getting harder and harder to win.
While the story in this essay is about a small town’s lottery tradition, it also shows how human beings can be corrupted by oppressive cultures. It is easy to see how Mrs. Hutchinson could get sucked in to this lottery, and her actions illustrate how she was driven by the need to get rich and avoid having to work for a living.
Despite the ostensibly religious basis of this tradition, it is really an example of hypocrisy. The town is ostensibly Christian, and while they do not practice gambling, they do participate in the lottery. The names of the children in this story, such as Dickie Delacroix, which means the cross, hint at the irony.
In addition to its religious and ethical implications, this story reveals the way in which a culture can be driven by irrational beliefs. The townspeople do not seem to question their lottery rituals, despite the fact that they are clearly harmful. This is an important point to consider, especially as the world becomes increasingly secular. It is essential that we learn to recognize when the culture we are in is unhealthy and seek out ways of changing it. We cannot have a healthy society without an open dialogue about how we should live together. This dialogue must include a discussion about how we can overcome the problems that we face, such as the lottery. The way in which we think about this issue will influence the type of world we create for our children and grandchildren. A good starting place for this discussion is the idea that we should value freedom and equality over money. In the end, a lottery system is not the best way to achieve these goals.