The title of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" is deliberately misleading, as most readers would expect winning a lottery to be a good thing, and thus might expect an uplifting story of fortune and success. The title is also somewhat vague and mysterious, as it does not reveal anything about the specific kind of lottery that the story will focus on, and thus sparks curiosity among readers.
However, the irony of the title swiftly becomes clear as the story progresses, and we get more and more hints that the particular village lottery that the story revolves around is not a contest one would want to win. At the end of the story, all doubt is gone, as it is revealed that the 'winner' is to be stoned to death by the other villagers (p. 32, ll. 18-36) as part of an obscure and brutal tradition whose exact origins are unclear to the villagers themselves.
The story begins by establishing the setting and by providing a backstory on the lottery:
The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers 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 (…) but in this village, where there were only about three hundred people, the whole lottery took less than two hours (…) (p. 25, ll. 1-9, p. 26, ll. 1-2)
The backstory shows that the lottery is organised in multiple communities. The references to past lotteries hint at it being a traditional event.
While waiting for the lottery to start, the children of the village fill their pockets with stones and make a big pile:
Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example (…); Bobby and Harry Jones and Dickie Delacroix (…) eventu...