Briefly explain how the story "The Lottery" is different than a typical lottery.

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In a typical lottery, a person pays to participate.  I would go to a local convenience store, pay some money, win, and gain great happiness.  In the story "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, most of that is completely flipped around.  A person automatically gets to participate in the lottery.  It's free!  If you win. . . then you have to pay the price . . . with your life . . . and great happiness doesn't spill forth from the winner's mouth. The "winner" gets to be stoned to death by the remaining "losers," so I imagine instead of cries of joy, there are screams of agony and pain.  A person doesn't win money; they win death. 

Another key difference is that in a typically lottery, people get to choose whether or not to participate in the lottery.  In Jackson's story, every single member of the community must have their name in lottery box.  The only exception to that rule is Mr. Summers.  

sjfisher | Student

Shirley Jackson's text, "The Lottery," depicts a lottery different from a typical one in three main ways. First, Jackson's lottery is compulsory. Participation is mandatory, whereas participation in a typical lottery is optional. Freedom of choice, and furthermore, freedom from risk, typically resides within control of the individual. In Jackson's text, however, the individual has lost that freedom. 

The second main difference is in the form of payment. A typical lottery requires a monetary submission. Individuals pay for entrance and opportunity. Individuals in the text are not required to submit any form of entrance fee.

The third outstanding difference between Jackson's lottery and a typical one is the nature of the reward. While a typical lottery rewards the winner with a monetary gain, Jackson's provides death by stoning. The reasoning behind the fictional lottery alludes to keeping order in society, so the reward could arguably be for the losers of the lottery in that, with each winner's death, they are assured continued order, safety, and happiness.