In the village of Lottery, each family head draws a slip of paper from a box. One of the slips is marked with a black spot. If the head of a household draws that slip, then their family will lose the money they have invested in The Lottery. The story opens with Tessie, a middle-aged housewife, arriving late to the drawing because she was washing her breakfast dishes and did not want to leave them in the sink until she had finished. As she pulls her slip, the other villagers begin to shout, “Lottery! It’s Tessie!”
The villagers recite a traditional rhyme: “Lottery in June/Corn be heavy soon.” This is an early reference to the role of the lottery as a form of taxation. The villagers, like many people throughout history, believe that lotteries provide a painless way for governments to raise money.
Tessie knows that she will not win, but she also feels a glimmer of hope. She is certain that someone has to win. This is the beauty and the evil of The Lottery: It enables individuals to give themselves a chance at an irrational and mathematically impossible dream.
Despite the fact that the prizes advertised in lottery advertisements are often enormous, it is important to remember that winnings are not paid out as a lump sum. Instead, a winning ticket will usually be invested in an annuity for three decades or more. Depending on the jurisdiction, and how the prize is invested, this may result in annual payments that are much smaller than the advertised jackpot – especially when income taxes are applied.