Having written "The Lottery" in the wake of World War II (1948), Shirley Jackson may have intended to comment on both the role of the scapegoat and that of violence in societies.
When Jackson's story was published in The New Yorker, there were many outraged responses and cancellations of subscriptions. The magazine published this response:
Miss Jackson has chosen a nameless little village to show, in microcosm, how the forces of belligerence, persecution, and vindictiveness are, in mankind, endless and traditional and that their targets are chosen without reason.
The fact that there were those who wrote requesting the location of "the lottery" and when it was held indicates the veracity of Jackson's message that there is something inherently dark in man that delights in violence. There is also in humanity the propensity to find a scapegoat for social ills or a group of people's or a country's own shortcomings. When Hitler made the Jews scapegoats, blaming them for many of the economic problems of the nation, there were many Germans who did not participate in any persecution, but they stood by when cruelty was dealt to the Jews, and they did nothing. Jackson hints at this passivity in the face of evil as she describes the men standing together, "away from the pile of stones in the corner" who speak quietly and "smile rather than laughed."
Also, because no one listens to the protests made by Tessie Hutchinson as she cries "It ain't fair, it isn't right," Miss Jackson may well have been commenting upon this passivity in people to ignore social wrongs out of fear for their personal well-being. Shirley Jackson wrote this in the July 22, 1948, issue of the San Francisco Chronicle:
...I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to shock the story's readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives.