A lottery is a form of gambling in which numbers are drawn to win a prize. It differs from games of chance in that skill is not involved, and it must be run fairly. The lottery must include a mechanism to collect and pool all money paid as stakes by participants, and it should be designed so that the probability of winning is no greater than if there were no lottery at all. The odds of winning a lottery are often advertised as very low.

In modern lotteries, prizes are typically cash or merchandise. The amount of the jackpot or prize depends on the rules of the game, but a percentage of ticket sales is typically used for costs of organizing and promoting the lottery, as well as to cover any losses. The remainder is available for the winners. The jackpot may also be structured so that it rolls over to the next drawing, increasing ticket sales and public interest in the game.

The central theme of the story is that people should stand up for their beliefs and not be afraid to challenge outdated traditions. Shirley Jackson is critiquing the way the people in this story follow tradition blindly, and she suggests that it is possible for evil to happen even in small towns and villages. She is also demonstrating that women can be treated unfairly and that gender roles are not fixed. The use of protagonism in this story is also a way to highlight the evil that exists in this society.

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