In The Lottery Shirley Jackson gives us a glimpse into the culture of her fictional community. Her use of symbols, actions and the setting are a few of her characterization methods that make her story memorable. The villagers act and behave differently before the lottery ritual begins than afterward, which shows how much their lives change once they are chosen. They lose their ability to care for one another, and even the most cherished relationships seem to disintegrate once they know they are going to be rewarded with a large sum of money. This change in lifestyle makes some people wonder if they really deserve the prize.
People have a natural tendency to gamble. While some play for fun, others see it as their last hope at a better life. The fact that they are aware of the odds of winning does not deter them from purchasing tickets, though. In fact, defenders of the lottery often cast it as a tax on the stupid, suggesting that players are unaware of how unlikely it is to win or that they simply enjoy gambling anyway. However, Cohen notes that lottery sales are more likely to increase as incomes drop and unemployment and poverty rates rise, and that lottery advertisements tend to be heavily marketed in neighborhoods with disproportionate numbers of poor, Black and Latino residents.
The lottery was invented as a way for states to finance government services without incurring the ire of their anti-tax voters. The immediate post-World War II period was a time of unprecedented prosperity, when state governments could afford to expand a broad range of social safety nets. But as economic growth slowed and the cost of inflation rose, many states began to struggle to keep up with their existing budgets. With the public increasingly hostile to taxes, politicians sought a way to maintain services without raising them.
Lotteries were born of this need. The first state-run lottery in modern times was started by New Hampshire in 1964, and the trend quickly spread. By the late nineteen-sixties, with California’s Proposition 13 cutting property taxes, lottery revenues soared across the country.
In some ways, the lottery is a symbol of a system that is no longer working. As the country’s inequality grows and families are becoming less secure, many are seeking a way out of their circumstances. They are desperate to feel like they have a chance for a better future, and the lottery is a way to do that. For that reason, the lottery has never been a popular idea with progressives, who argue that it is a form of slavery and that people are better off when they earn their own way through hard work. However, it continues to be a very popular way to raise money for states and charities.