What are the symbols in "The Lottery" and why are they significant?
The lottery itself is a symbol of several things - blind conformity to social expectations, empty rituals, the scapegoat syndrome (needing someone to be 'guilty' for collective fault).
The minor characters in the play are also "stock characters," representing types. Even the main characters remain "flat" as they really don't change throughout the story line.
Check out the eNotes references below for more details concernig each of these aspects. The last reference is a review of a book treating the scapegoat ritual in various cultures and times. Note also the mention of an annual ritual of purification in the book of Exedous (Exedous 27: 1-8)in the Bible and its association with a transfer of corporate guilt.
The biggest symbols are the stone gathered by the children (which come into play in the end) and the pieces of paper.
One slip has a black spot, signifying death. The person who gets the black spot is stoned to death by the townspeople. The reason for the person dying is to help the crops grow. The death symbolizes the rebirth, a sacrifice needed to ensure the return of the harvest.
Another symbol to consider is the victim. Tessie is a major supporter of the lottery system until she wins. She changes her mind rather quick after that. That could represent life itself, i.e. "it isn't fair".