The practice of determining fates by lottery has long been part of human history. In fact, Moses was instructed to use lotteries to distribute land in the Old Testament and Roman emperors used them to give away property and slaves. Even so, the popularity of modern state-run lotteries is comparatively recent. They started in the nineteen-sixties, when a growing awareness of all the money to be made gambling converged with a crisis in state funding. With the population rapidly increasing and the cost of social services ballooning, it became increasingly difficult for governments to balance their budgets without either raising taxes or cutting services.

The result was a number of states began to use lotteries to raise funds, and the public’s appetite for gambling grew. The first lotteries, however, were small and limited in scope. In order to increase their revenues, the government had to expand the games and promote them more aggressively. These changes, combined with the growing awareness of all the money to be made in lottery gambling, gave rise to the state-run multibillion dollar lotteries that are a common sight on billboards and radio ads today.

In the short story “The Lottery” Shirley Jackson depicts a village that holds an annual lottery. The story opens by describing how the people begin to gather for this event. She mentions that the children assembled first, of course, followed by the women and finally the men. This shows the blind obedience to tradition that is prevalent in this society, a theme that was also debated when the story first appeared in 1948.

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