The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny,
with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day;
were blossoming profusely and the grass was
richly green. The people of the village began
to gather in
the square, between the post office and the
bank, around ten o’clock; in some towns there
were so many
people that the lottery took two days and
had to be started on June 2th. but in this
village, where there
were only about three hundred people, the
whole lottery took less than two hours, so
it could begin at ten
o’clock in the morning and still be through
in time to allow the villagers to get home
for noon dinner.
The children assembled first, of course. School
was recently over for the summer, and the
liberty sat uneasily on most of them; they
tended to gather together quietly for a while
before they broke
into boisterous play. and their talk was still
of the classroom and the teacher, of books
Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets
full of stones, and the other boys soon followed
example, selecting the smoothest and roundest
stones; Bobby and Harry Jones and Dickie Delacroix–
villagers pronounced this name “Dellacroy”–eventually
made a great pile of stones in one corner
square and guarded it against the raids of
the other boys. The girls stood aside, talking
looking over their shoulders at rolled in
the dust or clung to the hands of their older
brothers or sisters.
Soon the men began to gather. surveying their
own children, speaking of planting and rain,
taxes. They stood together, away from the
pile of stones in the corner, and their jokes
were quiet and they
smiled rather than laughed. The women, wearing
faded house dresses and sweaters, came shortly
their menfolk. They greeted one another and
exchanged bits of gossip as they went to join
Soon the women, standing by their husbands,
began to call to their children, and the children
reluctantly, having to be called four or five
times. Bobby Martin ducked under his mother’s
and ran, laughing, back to the pile of stones.
His father spoke up sharply, and Bobby came
took his place between his father and his
The lottery was conducted–as were the square
dances, the teen club, the Halloween program–by
Summers. who had time and energy to devote
to civic activities. He was a round-faced,
jovial man and he
ran the coal business, and people were sorry
for him. because he had no children and his
wife was a
scold. When he arrived in the square, carrying
the black wooden box, there was a murmur of
conversation among the villagers, and he waved
and called. “Little late today, folks.” The
Graves, followed him, carrying a three- legged
stool, and the stool was put in the center
of the square and
Mr. Summers set the black box down on it.
The villagers kept their distance, leaving
a space between
themselves and the stool. and when Mr. Summers
said, “Some of you fellows want to give me
there was a hesitation before two men. Mr.
Martin and his oldest son, Baxter. came forward
to hold the
box steady on the stool while Mr. Summers
stirred up the papers inside it.
The original paraphernalia for the lottery
had been lost long ago, and the black box
now resting on the
stool had been put into use even before Old
Man Warner, the oldest man in town, was born.
Summers spoke frequently to the villagers
about making a new box, but no one liked to
upset even as
much tradition as was represented by the black
box. There was a story that the present box
made with some pieces of the box that had
preceded it, the one that had been constructed
when the first
people settled down to make a village here.
Every year, after the lottery, Mr. Summers
again about a new box, but every year the
subject was allowed to fade off without anything’s
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The Lottery–Shirley Jackson
The black box grew shabbier each year: by
now it was no longer completely black but
along one side to show the original wood color,
and in some places faded or stained.
Mr. Martin and his oldest son, Baxter, held
the black box securely on the stool until
Mr. Summers had
stirred the papers thoroughly with his hand.
Because so much of the ritual had been forgotten
discarded, Mr. Summers had been successful
in having slips of paper substituted for the
chips of wood
that had been used for generations. Chips
of wood, Mr. Summers had argued. had been
all very well
when the village was tiny, but now that the
population was more than three hundred and
likely to keep on
growing, it was necessary to use something
that would fit more easily into he black box.
The night before
the lottery, Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves made
up the slips of paper and put them in the
box, and it was
then taken to the safe of Mr. Summers’ coal
company and locked up until Mr. Summers was
ready to take
it to the square next morning. The rest of
the year, the box was put way, sometimes one
another; it had spent one year in Mr. Graves’s
barn and another year underfoot in the post
sometimes it was set on a shelf in the Martin
grocery and left there.
There was a great deal of fussing to be done
before Mr. Summers declared the lottery open.
the lists to make up–of heads of families.
heads of households in each family. members
household in each family. There was the proper
swearing-in of Mr. Summers by the postmaster,
official of the lottery; at one time, some
people remembered, there had been a recital
of some sort,
performed by the official of the lottery,
a perfunctory. tuneless chant that had been
rattled off duly each
year; some people believed that the official
of the lottery used to stand just so when
he said or sang it,
others believed that he was supposed to walk
among the people, but years and years ago
this p3rt of the
ritual had been allowed to lapse. There had
been, also, a ritual salute, which the official
of the lottery had
had to use in addressing each person who came
up to draw from the box, but this also had
time, until now it was felt necessary only
for the official to speak to each person approaching.
Summers was very good at all this; in his
clean white shirt and blue jeans. with one
carelessly on the black box. he seemed very
proper and important as he talked interminably
to Mr. Graves
and the Martins.
Just as Mr. Summers finally left off talking
and turned to the assembled villagers, Mrs.
hurriedly along the path to the square, her
sweater thrown over her shoulders, and slid
into place in the
back of the crowd. “Clean forgot what day
it was,” she said to Mrs. Delacroix, who stood
next to her, and
they both laughed softly. “Thought my old
man was out back stacking wood,” Mrs. Hutchinson
“and then I looked out the window and the
kids was gone, and then I remembered it was
and came a-running.” She dried her hands on
her apron, and Mrs. Delacroix said, “You’re
though. They’re still talking away up there.”
Mrs. Hutchinson craned her neck to see through
the crowd and found her husband and children
near the front. She tapped Mrs. Delacroix
on the arm as a farewell and began to make
her way through
the crowd. The people separated good-humoredly
to let her through: two or three people said.
just loud enough to be heard across the crowd,
“Here comes your, Missus, Hutchinson,” and
made it after all.” Mrs. Hutchinson reached
her husband, and Mr. Summers, who had been
cheerfully. “Thought we were going to have
to get on without you, Tessie.” Mrs. Hutchinson
grinning, “Wouldn’t have me leave m’dishes
in the sink, now, would you. Joe?,” and soft
through the crowd as the people stirred back
into position after Mrs. Hutchinson’s arrival.
“Well, now.” Mr. Summers said soberly, “guess
we better get started, get this over with,
so’s we can go
back to work. Anybody ain’t here?”
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“Dunbar.” several people said. “Dunbar. Dunbar.”
Mr. Summers consulted his list. “Clyde Dunbar.”
he said. “That’s right. He’s broke his leg,
Who’s drawing for him?”
“Me. I guess,” a woman said. and Mr. Summers
turned to look at her. “Wife draws for her
Summers said. “Don’t you have a grown boy
to do it for you, Janey?” Although Mr. Summers
everyone else in the village knew the answer
perfectly well, it was the business of the
official of the
lottery to ask such questions formally. Mr.
Summers waited with an expression of polite
Mrs. Dunbar answered.
“Horace’s not but sixteen vet.” Mrs. Dunbar
said regretfully. “Guess I gotta fill in for
the old man this
“Right.” Sr. Summers said. He made a note
on the list he was holding. Then he asked,
drawing this year?”
A tall boy in the crowd raised his hand. “Here,”
he said. “I’m drawing for my mother and me.”
his eyes nervously and ducked his head as
several voices in the crowd said thin#s like
lack.” and “Glad to see your mother’s got
a man to do it.”
“Well,” Mr. Summers said, “guess that’s everyone.
Old Man Warner make it?”
“Here,” a voice said. and Mr. Summers nodded.
A sudden hush fell on the crowd as Mr. Summers
cleared his throat and looked at the list.
“All ready?” he
called. “Now, I’ll read the names–heads of
families first–and the men come up and take
a paper out of
the box. Keep the paper folded in your hand
without looking at it until everyone has had
The people had done it so many times that
they only half listened to the directions:
most of them were
quiet. wetting their lips. not looking around.
Then Mr. Summers raised one hand high and
A man disengaged himself from the crowd and
came forward. “Hi. Steve.” Mr. Summers said.
Adams said. “Hi. Joe.” They grinned at one
another humorlessly and nervously. Then Mr.
into the black box and took out a folded paper.
He held it firmly by one corner as he turned
hastily back to his place in the crowd. where
he stood a little apart from his family. not
looking down at
“Allen.” Mr. Summers said. “Anderson…. Bentham.”
“Seems like there’s no time at all between
lotteries any more.” Mrs. Delacroix said to
Mrs. Graves in the
“Seems like we got through with the last one
only last week.”
“Time sure goes fast.– Mrs. Graves said.
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The Lottery–Shirley Jackson
“There goes my old man.” Mrs. Delacroix said.
She held her breath while her husband went
“Dunbar,” Mr. Summers said, and Mrs. Dunbar
went steadily to the box while one of the
“Go on. Janey,” and another said, “There she
“We’re next.” Mrs. Graves said. She watched
while Mr. Graves came around from the side
of the box,
greeted Mr. Summers gravely and selected a
slip of paper from the box. By now, all through
there were men holding the small folded papers
in their large hand. turning them over and
Mrs. Dunbar and her two sons stood together,
Mrs. Dunbar holding the slip of paper.
“Get up there, Bill,” Mrs. Hutchinson said.
and the people near her laughed.
“They do say,” Mr. Adams said to Old Man Warner,
who stood next to him, “that over in the north
village they’re talking of giving up the lottery.”
Old Man Warner snorted. “Pack of crazy fools,”
he said. “Listening to the young folks, nothing’s
enough for them. Next thing you know, they’ll
be wanting to go back to living in caves,
nobody work any
more, live hat way for a while. Used to be
a saying about ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy
soon.’ First thing
you know, we’d all be eating stewed chickweed
and acorns. There’s always been a lottery,”
petulantly. “Bad enough to see young Joe Summers
up there joking with everybody.”
“Some places have already quit lotteries.”
Mrs. Adams said.
“Nothing but trouble in that,” Old Man Warner
said stoutly. “Pack of young fools.”
“Martin.” And Bobby Martin watched his father
go forward. “Overdyke…. Percy.”
“I wish they’d hurry,” Mrs. Dunbar said to
her older son. “I wish they’d hurry.”
“They’re almost through,” her son said.
“You get ready to run tell Dad,” Mrs. Dunbar
Mr. Summers called his own name and then stepped
forward precisely and selected a slip from
Then he called, “Warner.”
“Seventy-seventh year I been in the lottery,”
Old Man Warner said as he went through the
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The Lottery–Shirley Jackson
“Watson” The tall boy came awkwardly through
the crowd. Someone said, “Don’t be nervous,
Mr. Summers said, “Take your time, son.”
After that, there was a long pause, a breathless
pause, until Mr. Summers. holding his slip
of paper in the
air, said, “All right, fellows.” For a minute,
no one moved, and then all the slips of paper
Suddenly, all the women began to speak at
once, saving. “Who is it?,” “Who’s got it?,”
“Is it the
Dunbars?,” “Is it the Watsons?” Then the voices
began to say, “It’s Hutchinson. It’s Bill,”
Hutchinson’s got it.”
“Go tell your father,” Mrs. Dunbar said to
her older son.
People began to look around to see the Hutchinsons.
Bill Hutchinson was standing quiet, staring
the paper in his hand. Suddenly. Tessie Hutchinson
shouted to Mr. Summers. “You didn’t give him
enough to take any paper he wanted. I saw
you. It wasn’t fair!”
“Be a good sport, Tessie.” Mrs. Delacroix
called, and Mrs. Graves said, “All of us took
the same chance.”
“Shut up, Tessie,” Bill Hutchinson said.
“Well, everyone,” Mr. Summers said, “that
was done pretty fast, and now we’ve got to
be hurrying a little
more to get done in time.” He consulted his
next list. “Bill,” he said, “you draw for
family. You got any other households in the
“There’s Don and Eva,” Mrs. Hutchinson yelled.
“Make them take their chance!”
“Daughters draw with their husbands’ families,
Tessie,” Mr. Summers said gently. “You know
well as anyone else.”
“It wasn’t fair,” Tessie said.
“I guess not, Joe.” Bill Hutchinson said regretfully.
“My daughter draws with her husband’s family;
only fair. And I’ve got no other family except
“Then, as far as drawing for families is concerned,
it’s you,” Mr. Summers said in explanation,
“and as far
as drawing for households is concerned, that’s
you, too. Right?”
“Right,” Bill Hutchinson said.
“How many kids, Bill?” Mr. Summers asked formally.
“Three,” Bill Hutchinson said.
“There’s Bill, Jr., and Nancy, and little
Dave. And Tessie and me.”
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The Lottery–Shirley Jackson
“All right, then,” Mr. Summers said. “Harry,
you got their tickets back?”
Mr. Graves nodded and held up the slips of
paper. “Put them in the box, then,” Mr. Summers
“Take Bill’s and put it in.”
“I think we ought to start over,” Mrs. Hutchinson
said, as quietly as she could. “I tell you
it wasn’t fair.
You didn’t give him time enough to choose.
Everybody saw that.”
Mr. Graves had selected the five slips and
put them in the box. and he dropped all the
papers but those
onto the ground. where the breeze caught them
and lifted them off.
“Listen, everybody,” Mrs. Hutchinson was saying
to the people around her.
“Ready, Bill?” Mr. Summers asked. and Bill
Hutchinson, with one quick glance around at
his wife and
“Remember,” Mr. Summers said. “take the slips
and keep them folded until each person has
Harry, you help little Dave.” Mr. Graves took
the hand of the little boy, who came willingly
with him up
to the box. “Take a paper out of the box,
Davy.” Mr. Summers said. Davy put his hand
into the box and
laughed. “Take just one paper.” Mr. Summers
said. “Harry, you hold it for him.” Mr. Graves
child’s hand and removed the folded paper
from the tight fist and held it while little
Dave stood next to
him and looked up at him wonderingly.
“Nancy next,” Mr. Summers said. Nancy was
twelve, and her school friends breathed heavily
as she went
forward switching her skirt, and took a slip
daintily from the box “Bill, Jr.,” Mr. Summers
said, and Billy,
his face red and his feet overlarge, near
knocked the box over as he got a paper out.
Summers said. She hesitated for a minute,
looking around defiantly. and then set her
lips and went up to
the box. She snatched a paper out and held
it behind her.
“Bill,” Mr. Summers said, and Bill Hutchinson
reached into the box and felt around, bringing
out at last with the slip of paper in it.
The crowd was quiet. A girl whispered, “I
hope it’s not Nancy,” and the sound of the
whisper reached the
edges of the crowd.
“It’s not the way it used to be.” Old Man
Warner said clearly. “People ain’t the way
they used to be.”
“All right,” Mr. Summers said. “Open the papers.
Harry, you open little Dave’s.”
Mr. Graves opened the slip of paper and there
was a general sigh through the crowd as he
held it up and
everyone could see that it was blank. Nancy
and Bill. Jr.. opened theirs at the same time.
beamed and laughed. turning around to the
crowd and holding their slips of paper above
“Tessie,” Mr. Summers said. There was a pause,
and then Mr. Summers looked at Bill Hutchinson,
Bill unfolded his paper and showed it. It
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“It’s Tessie,” Mr. Summers said, and his voice
was hushed. “Show us her paper. Bill.”
Bill Hutchinson went over to his wife and
forced the slip of paper out of her hand.
It had a black spot on
it, the black spot Mr. Summers had made the
night before with the heavy pencil in the
office. Bill Hutchinson held it up, and there
was a stir in the crowd.
“All right, folks.” Mr. Summers said. “Let’s
Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual
and lost the original black box, they still
use stones. The pile of stones the boys had
made earlier was ready; there were stones
on the ground with
the blowing scraps of paper that had come
out of the box Delacroix selected a stone
so large she had to
pick it up with both hands and turned to Mrs.
Dunbar. “Come on,” she said. “Hurry up.”
Mr. Dunbar had small stones in both hands,
and she said. gasping for breath. “I can’t
run at all. You’ll
have to go ahead and I’ll catch up with you.”
The children had stones already. And someone
gave little Davy Hutchinson few pebbles.
Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of a cleared
space by now, and she held her hands out desperately
the villagers moved in on her. “It isn’t fair,”
she said. A stone hit her on the side of the
head. Old Man
Warner was saying, “Come on, come on, everyone.”
Steve Adams was in the front of the crowd
villagers, with Mrs. Graves beside him.
“It isn’t fair, it isn’t right!”
screamed, and then they were upon her.