The lottery is a public or private arrangement in which prizes are awarded by chance to people who pay for a ticket. Prizes may be cash or goods. Lotteries are often promoted as a way to raise money for public goods or services such as subsidized housing units or kindergarten placements. They also serve as a form of entertainment for paying participants.

Lotteries are popular in some states because they are relatively inexpensive to operate. However, they have many disadvantages that have prompted criticism from economists. One of these is their regressivity, where the benefits accrue to those with high incomes more than to those with lower incomes. Another criticism is their impact on social mobility, since they create a false sense of opportunity for instant wealth for some people while increasing inequality and entrenching social class divisions.

Shirley Jackson’s story, The Lottery, takes place in a remote American village where tradition and custom reign supreme. Its protagonist, Tessie Hutchinson, is a Puritan woman who questions the legitimacy and correctness of the village’s lottery. Her name is an allusion to Anne Hutchinson, whose Antinomian beliefs led her to be excommunicated by the Puritan hierarchy.

The story begins with a description of how the lottery is held in this village, with Mrs. Hutchinson’s children assembling first “of course.” This is a clear reference to the idea that children are usually considered innocent and that they are likely to be swept up in a crowd of other villagers gathered for the lottery. The use of this characterization method is intended to make the story feel realistic. The characterization is further reinforced by other details in the text.