The Risks of Winning the Lottery
Lottery is a game of chance where people pay for a ticket and have a small chance to win huge sums of money, sometimes running into millions of dollars. It is a form of gambling that is often run by state or federal governments. In some cases, winning the lottery is a life changing event but it is also not without risk. It is important to understand the odds of winning before you purchase a ticket. Americans spend over $80 billion on lottery tickets each year – that is a lot of money that could be better spent by saving for an emergency fund or paying off credit card debt.
Regardless of their beliefs or lack thereof, the lottery draws people in with its promise of a quick fix. Unlike many other forms of gambling, where people can control how much they play and how often, lottery playing is a completely uncontrollable activity. It is not uncommon for those who have won the lottery to find themselves bankrupt within a few years of the win. This is because the majority of winnings are taxed heavily, which can take a large chunk out of the initial sum.
People have been using the drawing of lots to decide who gets what since ancient times. The practice is found throughout the Bible, where it was used for everything from determining kings to giving away land and slaves. It was popular among the Romans, and later spread to England and America despite Protestant prohibitions against gambling. It helped finance the American Revolution, and private lotteries were common in early America as a way to sell products or property for more than they could get in a regular sale. The prizes in these lotteries ranged from livestock and land to goods, furniture, and even slaves. George Washington managed a Virginia lottery whose prizes included slaves, and one enslaved man purchased his freedom in a South Carolina lottery and went on to foment a slave rebellion.
Although some defenders of the lottery argue that it is only a “tax on the stupid,” there is little evidence to support this claim. In fact, lottery spending tends to correlate with economic fluctuation, as Cohen points out: It rises as incomes fall, unemployment rises, and poverty rates increase. It also increases in neighborhoods where the lottery is promoted most aggressively, which is often in poor or black communities.
Jackson’s depiction of the villagers in this story is very telling of human nature and their wickedness. The characters greet each other with a smile and exchange bits of gossip while they are engaged in this devilish practice, which suggests that the villagers do not view it as anything out of the ordinary. As the lottery continues, it becomes every family for itself, a theme that is easily identifiable in many other novels and short stories. Ultimately, this is what makes Jackson’s use of the lottery so effective. It is an excellent example of the way he uses a setting, character, and plot to convey a deeper meaning.