In the story "The Lottery" there are 2 rounds. What are the two rounds about? Are they different?

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In the story "The Lottery," the first round of the lottery is to select a family unit. The second round is to select the family member within that unit who is the "winner" of the lottery.  Thus, Tessie's family is selected in the first round. This means that someone in her family will be selected in round two.  The odds of one's name being drawn are a function of how many family members there are. So, if there are seven family members, any individual in the family has a one in seven chance of being chosen.  It is when round two occurs that we learn that a family unit comprises parents and unmarried children, while married children are counted as their own unit with their spouses.  It is also when we learn of the complete selfishness of Tessie.  She argues about the definition of "family unit," wanting her married daughter to be counted with her unit, which will reduce the odds of her being chosen. So, she is perfectly willing to sacrifice her own child in order to save herself!  I have always found this to be a shocking part of this evil little story. 

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is a very good question. It made me realize that I had never fully understood the lottery process. It does consist of two rounds, and, as Lorraine Caplan explains, the first round it to select the family and the second to select the member of that family who will get stoned to death. There are over three hundred people present.

Chips of wood, Mr. Summers had argued, had been all very well when the village was tiny, but now that the population was more than three hundred and likely to keep on growing, it was necessary to use something that would fit more easily into the black box.

Now they are using little slips of paper. However, there are never any names on any of the slips of paper. All the slips are blank except for one, which has a black spot on it made by Mr. Summers the night before with a heavy pencil. We do not know how many slips of paper are in the black box for the first round. There would be one slip for each family, so there would obviously be fewer than a hundred slips in the box on the first drawing, and all but one of these would be blank. 

Then heads of the families are called up in alphabetical order to draw the slips, beginning with Steve Adams. They are supposed to keep the slips folded and not to look at them until all the slips have been drawn. In this case it is the Hutchinson family that gets the black spot. Then Mr. Summers ascertains that there are five in that family--Bill, Tessie, Bill Jr., Nancy, and little Davy. 

All right, then," Mr. Summers said. "Harry, you got their tickets back?"

Evidently Mr. Graves collects all the slips that have been drawn by all the family heads.

Mr. Graves had selected the five slips and put them in the box, and he dropped all the papers but those onto the ground, where the breeze caught them and lifted them off.

One of those five slips had the black spot. Mr. Graves got it back from Bill Hutchinson. That is the slip selected on the second round by Bill's wife Tessie. The process seems fair enough, although individuals in big families have better chances of escaping in the second round than those with smaller ones. 

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