A harrowing story set in a small town in the middle of America, Lottery depicts a group of people condoning the evil that is done by lottery. It highlights the way that oppressive norms and cultures deem certain acts to be acceptable without any concern for their negative impacts on humans.
This story also reveals how easily human beings succumb to commercialism. In this instance, it is in the form of lottery advertising. Lottery advertising entices a large number of people to purchase tickets with an offer of instant riches. It is often targeted at neighborhoods that are disproportionately poor, black, or Latino.
The history of lotteries is a complex one, but they have long been popular in the United States. Historically, they have been used as a fund-raising tool for everything from building the British Museum to repairing bridges. They were also a staple of colonial life. John Hancock ran a lottery to help finance his town hall in Boston and George Washington used a lottery to raise money for a mountain road in Virginia.
But as the twentieth century wore on, America’s economy began to falter and state budgets came under pressure. With tax revenues declining and the cost of providing a generous social safety net rising, it became increasingly difficult for politicians to balance the books. Some states, faced with a choice between raising taxes or cutting services, turned to the lottery to raise funds. Rather than arguing that a lottery would float most of the budget, advocates started to claim that it would cover just one line item—usually education but sometimes elder care or public parks.