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The History of the Lottery

The lottery is a form of gambling that draws numbers from a set and whoever has the most matching ones wins. Most states and Washington, DC have lotteries that take many different forms but the majority involve selecting a series of numbers from one to fifty. The more you match, the greater the prize. It is a very popular form of gambling and most people play at least once in their lives. While there are some people who have addictions to gambling, most people play for the fun and hope of winning. Despite its popularity, the lottery is not without controversy. Some people are concerned about the potential harm that the lottery can do to poor people and others who cannot afford to gamble. Others worry that it encourages people to covet wealth and things that money can buy. Some are also concerned about the regressive nature of state-sponsored lotteries and that they are in direct conflict with biblical teaching on how to earn a living.

The story starts in an unnamed town on an unspecified date. The narrator tells us that villagers are gathering in the town square for the annual lottery drawing. Children recently on summer break are the first to assemble in the square, followed by adult men and women. The people exhibit the stereotypical normalcy of small-town life as they chat and socialize.

Mrs. Delacroix, who has been friendly to Tessie, is the first to select a stone from the pile prepared earlier by the children. Her selection prompts Tessie to scream that she is not fair. Soon the villagers begin to hurl stones at her, but she continues to protest.

The lottery was popular in colonial America. The first one raised funds for the Virginia Company in 1612. In 1776 Benjamin Franklin sponsored a lottery to raise money for cannons to defend Philadelphia against the British, and Thomas Jefferson attempted to hold a private lottery to alleviate his crushing debts. During the American Revolution, lotteries were used to fund a variety of public projects including paving streets and building wharves. In the early part of the 20th century, New Hampshire started the first modern state lottery in order to generate revenue for education and other services without increasing taxes. Lotteries now exist in 45 states and the District of Columbia. While the lottery has its detractors, supporters point out that it is a painless source of revenue that attracts the poor and others who cannot afford traditional sources of income. The critics point out that lottery advertising focuses on persuading people to spend their hard-earned dollars on a chance at a large prize, even though there is no guarantee of winning.