Exposition: Everyone in the small New England village gathers at the end of June each year for the lottery. The audience is not informed as to why the lottery is held each year but is intrigued as the children gather stones and families stand next to each other. Mr. Summers is in charge of running the lottery, and Jackson provides some background details concerning the foreboding black box, which is presented in front of the community. Despite Mr. Summers's attempts to replace the old black box, the community does not want to mess with tradition and decides to keep it. Old Man Warner complains about how some villages have stopped participating in the lottery and is depicted as an opponent of progress and change. Tessie Hutchinson also arrives late to the lottery and takes her place beside her family. Mr. Summers then tells the villagers to not look at their slips until instructed and the heads of each household are called to retrieve their slips of paper from the black box.
Conflict: When the villagers look at their pieces of paper, Bill Hutchinson discovers that he is holding the slip with the black dot on it. His wife, Tessie, immediately complains that the drawing is not fair because Bill did not have enough time to choose his slip.
Rising Action: The entire Hutchinson family is told to place their five slips back into the black box for a second drawing. The tension builds as the reader wonders which member will draw the slip with the ominous black dot.
Climax: After each family member draws and opens their slips, Tessie discovers that she is holding the piece of paper with the black dot in the middle.
Falling Action: Tessie Hutchinson begins to scream and complain that the lottery is not fair as the other villagers begin to gather stones.
Resolution: The villagers rush towards Tessie and begin throwing stones at her. A stone strikes Tessie in the head as Old Man Warner encourages the villagers to hurl more stones at the defenseless woman.