A lottery is a game of chance that involves paying a consideration to participate and winning a prize on the basis of random chance. The term “lottery” is also used for other decisions based on chance, such as sports team drafts and medical treatment. Lotteries have been around for centuries, with the earliest recorded evidence being keno slips from the Han dynasty (205–187 BC).
Lottery arrangements typically involve selling tickets at a discount, with the proceeds going to the lottery organizer. A percentage of the total ticket sales normally goes to costs of organizing and promoting the lottery, and a portion of the remainder is awarded to the winners as prizes. A common practice is to offer a number of large and/or small prizes. People seem to be attracted to super-sized jackpots, which draw more attention in the media and increase ticket sales, but these can quickly get out of hand and require a huge amount of money to manage.
People tend to play the lottery in times of economic stress, and when they win, they often make bad decisions and become poor again. In addition, they tend to spend windfalls on things they want instead of saving them, and friends and family may rush in to ask for gifts or loans.
Shirley Jackson’s short story Lottery focuses on the many ways that humankind can harm one another. It uses characterization methods, such as setting and the actions of characters, to show this.