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Lottery Stories

The casting of lots for the distribution of property and other matters has a long record in human history. Public lotteries to distribute prize money are of more recent origin. They first appeared in the West in 15th-century Burgundy and Flanders, and were popularized by Francis I. They became the dominant form of fundraising in Europe until around 1826, although private and charitable lotteries continued to exist. The lottery has also been used to raise funds for municipal repairs (as in Rome), to finance art projects (for example, in Florence), and for military purposes such as supplying cannons for the defense of Philadelphia during the American Revolution.

Lottery advertising usually emphasizes the low probability of winning and the size of prizes, often exaggerating their value in terms of percentages of ticket sales or dollars paid out. It also stresses the social benefits of the lottery. However, critics point out that the regressive effects of gambling on lower-income groups are ignored by state officials who become accustomed to the revenue lottery tickets generate.

The story in this collection shows how hypocrisy and a disregard for the welfare of others characterize human nature. In this case, the villagers of the village do not realize that the lottery they are participating in will cause one member of their community to be stoned to death. Nevertheless, the villagers continue to participate in the lottery without a qualm because they think that it will be advantageous for them in some way.