What was the aim of the lottery?    

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Shirley Jackson's 1948 short story The Lottery begins in a quaint village where everyone is gathering for an annual ritual; the lottery.  The old box where slips of paper are drawn is brought to the town square and a listing of households is presented.  The story suggests the town has a strong desire to see everyone is present and fairly represented at the drawing.  After the first drawing Tessie Hutchinson argues her husband Bill, who drew the black dot, was not treated fairly.  A second drawing is held with only members of the family.  Tessie draws the final black dot which condemns her to death by stoning.

The aim of the lottery in the story is to pick from the townspeople who will be the victim of a brutal murder in an equitable manner.  The greater meaning behind the ritual is never revealed.  Jackson mentions several times throughout the story that the ritual has gone on for so many years the originating story has long been forgotten.  Some towns have even done away with the lottery, which draws the ire of some.

The story is a cautionary tale.  Blindly following rituals or any custom because it has always been done that way can blind those involved to a greater injustice.  Jackson offers hope by mentioning some towns stopping the violence.  The story has a bleak ending where Tessie is ostracized in an instant and stoned.  The tale cautions people to understand the real reason behind an action before following it.

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