What Is the Plot of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”?

“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson is a horror story in which a small New England town holds a lottery to determine who will be the yearly human sacrifice. In the end, the person who wins the lottery is stoned to death.

The story begins innocently, as the townspeople gather together in the square for the yearly lottery. First, children arrive and make a game of gathering stones into a pile. The men appear next and then the women. The officials administrating the lottery have collected slips of paper in a black box. Tessie Hutchinson, the main character, having forgotten about the event, arrives late. The officials review the names and excuses of absent people, and then go over the lottery rules. One official calls out names, and each person comes up and draws a slip of paper. Tessie Hutchinson ends up with the paper with the black dot on it. As she protests that the lottery was not fair, the townspeople begin throwing stones at her.

First published in June of 1948 in the New Yorker Magazine, “The Lottery” became an instant sensation and is considered one of the most famous short stories of all time. Often reprinted in magazines and books, it has also been adapted for radio, television, theater, ballet and film.