A lottery is a game in which people pay a small amount of money to have a chance to win a larger sum of money. While lottery games have been around for centuries, modern state lotteries have become increasingly popular and are used to raise funds for a variety of projects, including schools, highways, and even military operations. However, despite their popularity, lottery games have some drawbacks that should be considered by potential players.
Unlike most forms of gambling, the purchase of lottery tickets cannot be accounted for by decision models based on expected value maximization. This is because the price of a lottery ticket is more than the expected gain, meaning that someone who maximizes expected value should not buy a ticket. Lottery ticket purchases are instead characterized by risk-seeking behavior, as well as by the desire to experience a thrill and indulge in a fantasy of becoming rich.
The characterization methods in Shirley Jackson’s short story, The Lottery, highlight the ugliness of human nature by showing how people mistreat each other for the sake of winning the lottery. While most readers of this story expect the townspeople to be benefitted in some way by the lottery, the truth is that no good comes from this event and it only serves as a vehicle for societal decay.
As the story begins, The Lottery participants begin to gather for the lottery by lining up in order of their birthdates. The children assemble first, of course, since they are the youngest members of the community and are likely the most excited about the event. As they wait for their turn, the people in the community exchange gossip and quotes from traditional folk songs like “Lottery in June/Corn be heavy soon.”
The lottery seems to be a benign, family-friendly event at first glance, but it is quickly revealed that this is not the case. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that the townspeople are preparing to stone one of their own members to death for the chance at instant riches.
While most people know that the odds of winning the lottery are slim, many still play. In fact, the number of lottery players is increasing worldwide as the global economy becomes more polarized and income inequality grows. Some researchers argue that the increase in lottery participation is due to a decrease in social mobility, which has made people desperate for quick riches.
Although it is true that some states use the money they receive from the lottery to promote a particular cause, most of the funding comes from a regressive tax on working-class and middle-class families. The regressive nature of the lottery, combined with the perception that it is a fun, harmless activity, obscures the fact that it is an oppressive form of taxation and should be abolished.