The lottery is a game that involves betting small sums of money for a chance to win a large prize. Typically, the bettors must write their name and the amount they stake on a slip that is then collected by a lottery organization for a drawing. The winners are then declared and the prize awarded. Several modern lotteries also allow bettors to choose to have a computer randomly select the numbers for them. This option is called a “parlay.”

In the beginning of the story, Shirley Jackson establishes the bucolic setting in which the lottery will take place, the town square of an unnamed village. The narrator then begins to describe the normal, peaceful lives of the villagers as they gather in the square for the yearly lottery. The first to assemble are children who are on summer break, followed by adults who engage in the stereotypical social norms of a patriarchal culture by organizing themselves into nuclear families. The narrator then introduces the master of ceremonies and organizer of the lottery, Mr. Summers, who carries a black box that is older than the original paraphernalia used to hold the previous lottery.

The narrator then discusses the purpose of the lottery and why it’s necessary. She talks about how the lottery is meant to bring in enormous profits for the agencies that run it. This is a message that is marketed heavily to people, and one that tries to convince the public that they should buy tickets because it’s good for society as a whole. She also emphasizes that, in spite of what some might think, the chances of winning are very slim.