What is the purpose of the lottery?

The ultimate outcome of the lottery is that the chosen individual suffers a painful death via stoning at the hands of their neighbors and family. Jackson does not explicitly mention, however, the original purpose of the lottery, likely because that fact disappeared over time much like other details of the event. Old Man Warner’s recollection of the saying “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” offers the possibility that the lottery initially began as a form of ritual sacrifice to ensure a successful harvest, but the significance of the true origin seems to be irrelevant to the present community.

What is “The Lottery” satirizing?

“The Lottery” ultimately satirizes the way in which individuals and cultures more broadly cling to practices and belief systems despite the fact that they are outdated or no longer useful. Jackson creates an extremely jarring scenario in order to make the hypocrisy of this mindset more evident to readers. Her choice not to give the village a name or a clear sense of time period implies that the critiques she makes of the world within the story apply to the real world as well. 

How does Tessie change throughout the story?

When Tessie first appears in the story, she represents a stereotypical scatterbrained woman and seems to enjoy being the center of attention. Her late arrival works to distinguish her from the other villagers, although she initially views the lottery in the same accepting manner as everyone else. Once her husband draws the marked slip of paper, however, Tessie’s attitude changes entirely. She quickly challenges Mr. Summers and argues that the drawing is unfair, a statement that puts her directly at odds with the rest of the group. She maintains this new perspective until her untimely death at the end of the story.

What does the black box represent?

The shabby black box that Mr. Summers uses every year to hold the slips of paper for the lottery represents both the history of the tradition and the evil act that comprises it. The box is falling apart, and despite yearly talks of replacing it with a new one, the villagers never do. This characterization of the box allows it to symbolize the outdated nature of the lottery and the absurd fact that the tradition still exists. The dark colors of the box also allude to the horrific nature of the lottery.

Why does the tradition of the lottery still exist in the village?

While Jackson does not answer this question directly in the text, the details surrounding the history of the lottery imply that the practice still exists purely because no one has taken action to stop it. Much like the failed notion of replacing the shabby box with a new one, any talk of abandoning the lottery goes unfulfilled. The members of the community are so accustomed to the tradition that they are blind to its brutal realities.