What is the Lottery?

The lottery is a game in which participants pay for tickets and the winners receive a prize, such as cash or goods. Some examples of the lottery include a drawing for units in a subsidized housing block, or kindergarten placements. In the United States, there are a variety of state-sponsored lotteries that award money or other prizes to paying participants. The New York Lottery, for example, awards prizes in several categories, including housing, education, and business startup costs. The winners of these awards are chosen by a random selection process, such as a drawing or a computer-generated process. The New York State Lottery raises money for these prizes by buying U.S. Treasury bonds with a zero-coupon, or STRIPS.

The name “lottery” is a combination of Dutch and English, deriving from the Middle Dutch noun lot (“fate”), perhaps from the act of dividing something into lots or from the Old French noun lotte, “strike.” The first recorded public lotteries, allowing people to purchase tickets with a chance of winning money or other goods, were held in Europe in the 15th century. Town records from Ghent, Bruges, and other cities show that lotteries were used to raise money for town fortifications, as well as to provide assistance for the poor.

Many advocates of state-sponsored lotteries argue that they can be a painless source of revenue. They assert that voters want states to spend more, and politicians see lotteries as a way to get tax money for free. These arguments are flawed in a number of ways.

One of the most basic flaws in the lottery argument is that it assumes that all players are equally poor or wealthy. In fact, rich and poor people spend about the same amount of time playing lottery games, and they purchase the same amount of tickets. But the rich buy fewer tickets than the poor, and their purchases represent a smaller percentage of their income. As a result, the wealthy have a lower risk of losing their money to the lottery than the poor do.

Moreover, lottery revenues tend to increase dramatically soon after the introduction of a new game, then level off and decline. Lottery companies are constantly introducing new games to maintain or increase revenues, with the goal of keeping people interested. They use the same tactics as cigarette companies and video-game makers.

Lotteries are also susceptible to economic fluctuations. In times of high unemployment or poverty rates, the sales of lottery tickets spike. In addition, a great deal of the marketing for state-sponsored lotteries is targeted at low-income neighborhoods. This practice is particularly controversial because it contributes to the growing problem of compulsive gambling.

In this short story, the characters’ actions and behavior illustrate some of the characterization methods. For example, Mrs. Delacroix’s action of picking a big rock expresses her determination and a quick temper. Similarly, Mr. Summer’s name reveals his industrious nature. The setting of the story, which is a village, is an important element of characterization as well.