How long has the black box been around for the lottery? 

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The black box is not the one that was originally used in the first lotteries. 

The original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago, and the black box now resting on the stool had been put into use even before Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, was born.

Old Man Warner is seventy-seven, or possibly seventy-eight years old.

"Seventy-seventh year I been in the lottery," Old Man Warner said as he went through the crowd. "Seventy-seventh time."

It is obvious that even the youngest children are included in the lottery and are thus eligible to be stoned to death if their name is drawn. Perhaps Mr. Warner was at least one year old when he was included in his first lottery, which would make him seventy-eight now. The black box presently in use would have to be at least seventy-nine or eighty years old if it was placed into use before Old Man Warner was born--but the exact age of the box is not specified. It is described as being in dilapidated condition:

The black box grew shabbier every year; by now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly along one side to show the original wood color, and in some places faded or stained.

The black box would seem to be intended to symbolize the outdated, obsolete nature of the lottery itself. There is talk of obtaining a brand-new black box--but there is also talk of abolishing the lottery altogether.

Every year, after the lottery, Mr. Summers began talking again about a new box, but every year the subject was allowed to fade off without anything's being done.

The people seem to feel that getting a brand-new black box would be tantamount to agreeing to consecrate and perpetuate the lottery for the foreseeable future, even giving the lottery a whole new lease on life. And it is obvious that, though they are afraid to say so, many people in the gathering would like to let this horrid annual event expire. There is a sense that Old Man Warner is largely responsible for keeping this annual event going. He has successfully survived seventy-seven lotteries and feels by now that the "winner" will always be somebody else, not him. The author creates the impression that Warner not only favors and defends the lottery but that it won't continue much longer after this senile old fool finally dies.