Are there any clues in the story that might explain how the lottery first started? What might its purpose be? What passages give the reader clues about the origins of this ritual?

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Indeed, there are few clues about the lottery.

Perhaps the ambiguity about the time of the beginning of the lottery is purposeful on the part of the author, since Shirley Jackson does not indicate any town or country for the location of this archaic custom, either. Since the concept of a scapegoat goes back to biblical times and beyond (Leviticus 16:10), the date of the practice of making someone a scapegoat so that a corn crop will do well is impossible to determine. The most that the reader can glean comes from the words of Old Man Warner, who declares, "Seventy-seventh year I been [sic] in the lottery." The reader might guess that the lottery began sometime before Old Man Warner's participation (after all, Mr. Warner says that "there's always been a lottery," a statement that suggests he may have heard older people than he speak of this ritual). Nevertheless, anything more than seventy-seven years is conjecture because there is no definitive number stated beyond Mr. Warner's assertion.


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