The lottery is a popular method for distributing something that has limited supply and high demand, such as a kindergarten spot at a prestigious school, a unit in a subsidized housing complex, or a vaccine for an infectious disease. It can also be a tool for raising money for a particular project or cause, such as a town repair fund or a public building. Its popularity and ease of administration make it a convenient option for raising funds from the general public, but there are also concerns about its addictive nature, regressivity, and ability to lead to a life of poverty and dependence.
The word lottery comes from the Latin loteria, meaning “drawing lots” or “fateful fortune.” The earliest European lotteries were used for raising funds to build city walls and fortifications, but their roots go back much further. The ancient Romans used a type of lottery for giving away slaves and property during Saturnalian feasts. Later, wealthy families would hold a lottery to distribute gifts during dinner parties. The first lottery that offered tickets with cash prizes was held in the Low Countries during the 15th century.
The short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson focuses on the lottery as an evil practice that is detrimental to the human race. Jackson uses characterization methods such as setting and actions to portray this theme. Throughout the story, the characters act in ways that reveal their wickedness and depravity, such as when Mrs. Delacroix picks up the large rock in frustration. This action demonstrates her determination and quick temper.