Discuss how Chekhov's "The Lottery Ticket" symbolizes the greed in human nature that has the potential to destroy human relations. 

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When "The Lottery Ticket" begins, Ivan is described as being content with his current life. However, after his wife asks him to check the lottery tickets (her number was 9,499–26), and he finds the first of those two numbers among the winning tickets. At this point, the two start entertaining...

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When "The Lottery Ticket" begins, Ivan is described as being content with his current life. However, after his wife asks him to check the lottery tickets (her number was 9,499–26), and he finds the first of those two numbers among the winning tickets. At this point, the two start entertaining the possibility of their actually winning, and, as they do so, their earlier contentment and happiness consequently unravels—with greed and ultimately hatred setting in.

Ivan imagines what he would do with the money, noting that he could pay off their debts and buy an estate. Over time, these flights of imagination grow more elaborate as he begins picturing this future life—along with the possibility of traveling to other countries. When his wife also expresses an interest in traveling, his imaginings take another dramatic shift as he starts exhibiting greater hostility toward his wife, a hostility which his wife shares—which turns into mutual hatred.

At the end of the story, he reads out the winning number, and they find out that they had not had the winning selection after all, but the damage has already been done. That earlier sense of contentment with life has been shattered, and the story closes with the two in a state of misery.

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The lottery ticket symbolizes how riches, or the promise of riches, can corrupt people's souls. The imminent prospect of winning the lottery is enough to drive a wedge between Ivan and Masha, potentially jeopardizing their marriage. A lottery win should be a cause of celebration. But in Ivan's and Masha's case, it generates mutual mistrust and suspicion. In their premature celebration Ivan and Masha become selfish, forgetting their commitments to each other as husband and wife. Their greed has corrupted them, turning them against each other. They've both revealed a side of themselves that the other probably hasn't seen before. The genie's out of the bottle, so to speak, and there's no way it can ever be put back again.

Chekhov expertly plays with our expectations. We might think that, once Ivan and Masha realize that they haven't won the lottery after all, they'll dissolve into each other's arms and laugh about the whole thing. But they don't. In fact, they can't, because the prospect of sudden wealth has elicited how they truly feel about each other. The lottery ticket has revealed not just Ivan's and Masha's greed, but the truth about what's most important to them in life. And it's not pretty.

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One way to see how Chekhov addresses the greed in human nature and its ability to destroy relationships would be in observing Ivan's and Masha's reactions when confronted with the idea that they might have won the lottery money.

In thinking about the money he might have, Ivan displays the greed that Chekhov believes is a part of human nature.  When Ivan considers what he might do with the money, he thinks about traveling. When he realizes that he might have to take Masha with him, his greed starts to emerge.  He wants to leave her behind, and enjoy the experience without her.  Ivan starts to resent her because she would be "sighing over something, complaining that the train made her head ache, that she had spent so much money."  Then, Ivan begins to think that his wife should not be entitled to the money because "She knows nothing about money, and so she is stingy. If she won it she would give me a hundred roubles, and put the rest away under lock and key."  Selfishness for money also impacts how Ivan sees his relatives. He thinks that they would want to take a share of his winnings.  At this thought, Ivan refers to them as "reptiles," describing them as "repulsive and hateful."   The coveting of money also impacts Masha.  When she begins to daydream about a world of lottery winnings, she displays territoriality over the money. Chekhov writes that such thoughts cause her to see Ivan "with anger and hatred" because "she had her own daydreams, her own plans, her own reflections; she understood perfectly well what her husband's dreams were. She knew who would be the first to try to grab her winnings."  Greed has changed the relationship between husband and wife and how they view the world.

In both examples, the lottery winnings inspire greed.  This greed transforms people who originally cared for one another into envious and possessive individuals.  It is shown to be a part of human nature, something that lies dormant within the psyche that money illuminates.

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