The lottery

Front cover of an edition of "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson

"The Lottery" is a short story by Shirley Jackson, first published in the June 26, 1948 issue of the New Yorker. The story is famous for its brutal plot juxtaposed with the peaceful setting of a small, modern American farming community. The story also touches on the theme of the collective mentality overriding basic human instinct when the peer pressure is strong enough.


A small American farm town prepares itself for an annual ritual known only as "the lottery." The lottery is a ritual practiced by the small village of roughly 300 people to ensure a good harvest the next year. Children pile stones in anticipation of the event. Although some people talk about their uncertainty in the lottery, and some even mention that neighboring counties are considering abandoning the process, nobody challenges the decision to go on with the lottery. There is even a local proverb: "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon." 

The lottery begins with each family drawing a slip of paper from a black box.  Bill Hutchinson draws a paper with a black spot which means his family has been chosen. For the second round, each member of his family must draw another slip of paper. Bill's wife, Tessie, draws the marked slip. As the villagers begin to stone her to death, she complains that the situation is unfair.

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