3 Short stories 1) The Lottery 2) The Lottery Ticket 3) The Lottery in Babylon


1) The Lottery       Listen to the story                          Shirley Jackson

The classic short story about conformity and tradition in America.
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 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 feeling of 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 and reprimands. Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones; Bobby and Harry Jones and Dickie Delacroix-- the villagers pronounced this name 'Dellacroy'--eventually made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square and guarded it against the raids of the other boys. The girls stood aside, talking among themselves, 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, tractors and 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 after their menfolk. They greeted one another and exchanged bits of gossip as they went to join their husbands. Soon the women, standing by their husbands, began to call to their children, and the children came reluctantly, having to be called four or five times. Bobby Martin ducked under his mother's grasping hand and ran, laughing, back to the pile of stones. His father spoke up sharply, and Bobby came quickly and took his place between his father and his oldest brother.
The lottery was conducted--as were the square dances, the teen club, the Halloween program--by Mr. 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 postmaster, Mr. 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 a hand?' 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. Mr. 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 had been 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 began talking again about a new box, but every year the subject was allowed to fade off without anything's being done. The black box grew shabbier each year: by now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly 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 or 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 place, sometimes another; it had spent one year in Mr. Graves's barn and another year underfoot in the post office. and 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. There were the lists to make up--of heads of families. heads of households in each family. members of each household in each family. There was the proper swearing-in of Mr. Summers by the postmaster, as the 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 changed with time, until now it was felt necessary only for the official to speak to each person approaching. Mr. Summers was very good at all this; in his clean white shirt and blue jeans. with one hand resting 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. Hutchinson came 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 went on. 'and then I looked out the window and the kids was gone, and then I remembered it was the twenty-seventh and came a-running.' She dried her hands on her apron, and Mrs. Delacroix said, 'You're in time, though. They're still talking away up there.'
Mrs. Hutchinson craned her neck to see through the crowd and found her husband and children standing 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. in voices just loud enough to be heard across the crowd, 'Here comes your, Missus, Hutchinson,' and 'Bill, she made it after all.' Mrs. Hutchinson reached her husband, and Mr. Summers, who had been waiting, said cheerfully. 'Thought we were going to have to get on without you, Tessie.' Mrs. Hutchinson said. grinning, 'Wouldn't have me leave m'dishes in the sink, now, would you. Joe?,' and soft laughter ran 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?'
'Dunbar.' several people said. 'Dunbar. Dunbar.'
Mr. Summers consulted his list. 'Clyde Dunbar.' he said. 'That's right. He's broke his leg, hasn't he? Who's drawing for him?'
'Me. I guess,' a woman said. and Mr. Summers turned to look at her. 'Wife draws for her husband.' Mr. Summers said. 'Don't you have a grown boy to do it for you, Janey?' Although Mr. Summers and 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 interest while Mrs. Dunbar answered.
'Horace's not but sixteen vet.' Mrs. Dunbar said regretfully. 'Guess I gotta fill in for the old man this year.'
'Right.' Sr. Summers said. He made a note on the list he was holding. Then he asked, 'Watson boy drawing this year?'
A tall boy in the crowd raised his hand. 'Here,' he said. 'I m drawing for my mother and me.' He blinked his eyes nervously and ducked his head as several voices in the crowd said thin#s like 'Good fellow, 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 a turn. Everything clear?'
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 said, 'Adams.' A man disengaged himself from the crowd and came forward. 'Hi. Steve.' Mr. Summers said. and Mr. Adams said. 'Hi. Joe.' They grinned at one another humorlessly and nervously. Then Mr. Adams reached into the black box and took out a folded paper. He held it firmly by one corner as he turned and went hastily back to his place in the crowd. where he stood a little apart from his family. not looking down at his hand.
'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 back row.
'Seems like we got through with the last one only last week.'
'Time sure goes fast.-- Mrs. Graves said.
'Clark.... Delacroix'
'There goes my old man.' Mrs. Delacroix said. She held her breath while her husband went forward.
'Dunbar,' Mr. Summers said, and Mrs. Dunbar went steadily to the box while one of the women said. 'Go on. Janey,' and another said, 'There she goes.'
'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 the crowd there were men holding the small folded papers in their large hand. turning them over and over nervously Mrs. Dunbar and her two sons stood together, Mrs. Dunbar holding the slip of paper.
'Harburt.... Hutchinson.'
'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 good 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,' he added 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 said.
Mr. Summers called his own name and then stepped forward precisely and selected a slip from the box. Then he called, 'Warner.'
'Seventy-seventh year I been in the lottery,' Old Man Warner said as he went through the crowd. 'Seventy-seventh time.'
'Watson' The tall boy came awkwardly through the crowd. Someone said, 'Don't be nervous, Jack,' and 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 were opened. 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,' '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 down at the paper in his hand. Suddenly. Tessie Hutchinson shouted to Mr. Summers. 'You didn't give him time 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 the Hutchinson family. You got any other households in the Hutchinsons?'
'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 that as 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; that's only fair. And I've got no other family except the kids.'
'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.'
'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 directed. '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 children. nodded.
'Remember,' Mr. Summers said. 'take the slips and keep them folded until each person has taken one. 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 took the 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. 'Tessie,' Mr. 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 his hand 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. and both beamed and laughed. turning around to the crowd and holding their slips of paper above their heads.
'Tessie,' Mr. Summers said. There was a pause, and then Mr. Summers looked at Bill Hutchinson, and Bill unfolded his paper and showed it. It was blank.
'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 coal company office. Bill Hutchinson held it up, and there was a stir in the crowd.
'All right, folks.' Mr. Summers said. 'Let's finish quickly.'
Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to 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 as 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 of villagers, with Mrs. Graves beside him.
'It isn't fair, it isn't right,' Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.

Reading Quiz: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Please answer the following questions in complete sentences on a separate sheet of paper.
1. Describe the setting of the story.
2. Describe two conflicts seen in the story. (Remember the different types of conflict in your
review packet as well as what we discussed in class)
3. When does the climax occur?
4. Using your methods of characterization pick one of the characters in the story to describe and
analyze in detail.
5. In your opinion, is the lottery fair? Moral? Immoral? Explain your feelings regarding this
Bonus Questions!
1. Describe the scene and speaker of the following quote-
“ It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,”
2. Describe the creation of the black box, who made it, when, and why it is significant

2) The Lottery Ticket    Listen to the story                           
Anton Chekhov

Ivan Dmitritch, a middle-class man who lived with his family on an income of twelve hundred a year and was very well satisfied with his lot, sat down on the sofa after supper and began reading the newspaper.

The Lottery Ticket

by Anton Chekhov

Ivan Dmitritch, a middle-class man who lived with his family on an income of twelve hundred a year and was very well satisfied with his lot, sat down on the sofa after supper and began reading the newspaper.
'I forgot to look at the newspaper today,' his wife said to him as she cleared the table. 'Look and see whether the list of drawings is there.'
'Yes, it is,' said Ivan Dmitritch; 'but hasn't your ticket lapsed?'
'No; I took the interest on Tuesday.'
'What is the number?'
'Series 9,499, number 26.'
'All right . . . we will look . . . 9,499 and 26.'
Ivan Dmitritch had no faith in lottery luck, and would not, as a rule, have consented to look at the lists of winning numbers, but now, as he had nothing else to do and as the newspaper was before his eyes, he passed his finger downwards along the column of numbers. And immediately, as though in mockery of his scepticism, no further than the second line from the top, his eye was caught by the figure 9,499! Unable to believe his eyes, he hurriedly dropped the paper on his knees without looking to see the number of the ticket, and, just as though some one had given him a douche of cold water, he felt an agreeable chill in the pit of the stomach; tingling and terrible and sweet!
'Masha, 9,499 is there!' he said in a hollow voice.
His wife looked at his astonished and panicstricken face, and realized that he was not joking.
'9,499?' she asked, turning pale and dropping the folded tablecloth on the table.
'Yes, yes . . . it really is there!'
'And the number of the ticket?'
'Oh yes! There's the number of the ticket too. But stay . . . wait! No, I say! Anyway, the number of our series is there! Anyway, you understand....'
Looking at his wife, Ivan Dmitritch gave a broad, senseless smile, like a baby when a bright object is shown it. His wife smiled too; it was as pleasant to her as to him that he only mentioned the series, and did not try to find out the number of the winning ticket. To torment and tantalize oneself with hopes of possible fortune is so sweet, so thrilling!
'It is our series,' said Ivan Dmitritch, after a long silence. 'So there is a probability that we have won. It's only a probability, but there it is!'
'Well, now look!'
'Wait a little. We have plenty of time to be disappointed. It's on the second line from the top, so the prize is seventy-five thousand. That's not money, but power, capital! And in a minute I shall look at the list, and there--26! Eh? I say, what if we really have won?'
The husband and wife began laughing and staring at one another in silence. The possibility of winning bewildered them; they could not have said, could not have dreamed, what they both needed that seventy-five thousand for, what they would buy, where they would go. They thought only of the figures 9,499 and 75,000 and pictured them in their imagination, while somehow they could not think of the happiness itself which was so possible.
Ivan Dmitritch, holding the paper in his hand, walked several times from corner to corner, and only when he had recovered from the first impression began dreaming a little.
'And if we have won,' he said--'why, it will be a new life, it will be a transformation! The ticket is yours, but if it were mine I should, first of all, of course, spend twenty-five thousand on real property in the shape of an estate; ten thousand on immediate expenses, new furnishing . . . travelling . . . paying debts, and so on. . . . The other forty thousand I would put in the bank and get interest on it.'
'Yes, an estate, that would be nice,' said his wife, sitting down and dropping her hands in her lap.
'Somewhere in the Tula or Oryol provinces. . . . In the first place we shouldn't need a summer villa, and besides, it would always bring in an income.'
And pictures came crowding on his imagination, each more gracious and poetical than the last. And in all these pictures he saw himself well-fed, serene, healthy, felt warm, even hot! Here, after eating a summer soup, cold as ice, he lay on his back on the burning sand close to a stream or in the garden under a lime-tree. . . . It is hot. . . . His little boy and girl are crawling about near him, digging in the sand or catching ladybirds in the grass. He dozes sweetly, thinking of nothing, and feeling all over that he need not go to the office today, tomorrow, or the day after. Or, tired of lying still, he goes to the hayfield, or to the forest for mushrooms, or watches the peasants catching fish with a net. When the sun sets he takes a towel and soap and saunters to the bathing shed, where he undresses at his leisure, slowly rubs his bare chest with his hands, and goes into the water. And in the water, near the opaque soapy circles, little fish flit to and fro and green water-weeds nod their heads. After bathing there is tea with cream and milk rolls. . . . In the evening a walk or vint with the neighbors.
'Yes, it would be nice to buy an estate,' said his wife, also dreaming, and from her face it was evident that she was enchanted by her thoughts.
Ivan Dmitritch pictured to himself autumn with its rains, its cold evenings, and its St. Martin's summer. At that season he would have to take longer walks about the garden and beside the river, so as to get thoroughly chilled, and then drink a big glass of vodka and eat a salted mushroom or a soused cucumber, and then--drink another. . . . The children would come running from the kitchen-garden, bringing a carrot and a radish smelling of fresh earth. . . . And then, he would lie stretched full length on the sofa, and in leisurely fashion turn over the pages of some illustrated magazine, or, covering his face with it and unbuttoning his waistcoat, give himself up to slumber.
The St. Martin's summer is followed by cloudy, gloomy weather. It rains day and night, the bare trees weep, the wind is damp and cold. The dogs, the horses, the fowls--all are wet, depressed, downcast. There is nowhere to walk; one can't go out for days together; one has to pace up and down the room, looking despondently at the grey window. It is dreary!
Ivan Dmitritch stopped and looked at his wife.
'I should go abroad, you know, Masha,' he said.
And he began thinking how nice it would be in late autumn to go abroad somewhere to the South of France . . . to Italy . . . to India!
'I should certainly go abroad too,' his wife said. 'But look at the number of the ticket!'
'Wait, wait! . . .'
He walked about the room and went on thinking. It occurred to him: what if his wife really did go abroad? It is pleasant to travel alone, or in the society of light, careless women who live in the present, and not such as think and talk all the journey about nothing but their children, sigh, and tremble with dismay over every farthing. Ivan Dmitritch imagined his wife in the train with a multitude of parcels, baskets, and bags; she would be sighing over something, complaining that the train made her head ache, that she had spent so much money. . . . At the stations he would continually be having to run for boiling water, bread and butter. . . . She wouldn't have dinner because of its being too dear. . . .
'She would begrudge me every farthing,' he thought, with a glance at his wife. 'The lottery ticket is hers, not mine! Besides, what is the use of her going abroad? What does she want there? She would shut herself up in the hotel, and not let me out of her sight. . . . I know!'
And for the first time in his life his mind dwelt on the fact that his wife had grown elderly and plain, and that she was saturated through and through with the smell of cooking, while he was still young, fresh, and healthy, and might well have got married again.
'Of course, all that is silly nonsense,' he thought; 'but . . . why should she go abroad? What would she make of it? And yet she would go, of course. . . . I can fancy. . . . In reality it is all one to her, whether it is Naples or Klin. She would only be in my way. I should be dependent upon her. I can fancy how, like a regular woman, she will lock the money up as soon as she gets it. . . . She will look after her relations and grudge me every farthing.'
Ivan Dmitritch thought of her relations. All those wretched brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles would come crawling about as soon as they heard of the winning ticket, would begin whining like beggars, and fawning upon them with oily, hypocritical smiles. Wretched, detestable people! If they were given anything, they would ask for more; while if they were refused, they would swear at them, slander them, and wish them every kind of misfortune.
Ivan Dmitritch remembered his own relations, and their faces, at which he had looked impartially in the past, struck him now as repulsive and hateful.
'They are such reptiles!' he thought.
And his wife's face, too, struck him as repulsive and hateful. Anger surged up in his heart against her, and he thought malignantly:
'She knows nothing about money, and so she is stingy. If she won it she would give me a hundred roubles, and put the rest away under lock and key.'
And he looked at his wife, not with a smile now, but with hatred. She glanced at him too, and also with hatred and anger. She had her own daydreams, her own plans, her own reflections; she understood perfectly well what her husband's dreams were. She knew who would be the first to try to grab her winnings.
'It's very nice making daydreams at other people's expense!' is what her eyes expressed. 'No, don't you dare!'
Her husband understood her look; hatred began stirring again in his breast, and in order to annoy his wife he glanced quickly, to spite her at the fourth page on the newspaper and read out triumphantly:
'Series 9,499, number 46! Not 26!'
Hatred and hope both disappeared at once, and it began immediately to seem to Ivan Dmitritch and his wife that their rooms were dark and small and low-pitched, that the supper they had been eating was not doing them good, but Lying heavy on their stomachs, that the evenings were long and wearisome. . . .
'What the devil's the meaning of it?' said Ivan Dmitritch, beginning to be ill-humored. 'Wherever one steps there are bits of paper under one's feet, crumbs, husks. The rooms are never swept! One is simply forced to go out. Damnation take my soul entirely! I shall go and hang myself on the first aspen-tree!'

The Lottery in Babylon (translated from the Spanish)

Jorge Luis Borges                            Listen to the Story

Like all men of Babylon, I have been proconsul; like them all, a slave; I have also known omnipotence, opprobrium, incarceration. Look: on my right hand is missing my index finger. Look: through this rent cape can be seen on my stomach a ruddy tattoo — it is the second symbol, Beth. On nights when the moon is full, this symbol confers unto me power over the men whose mark is Ghimel while rendering me subject to the men of Aleph, who on moonless nights must obey the men of Ghimel. In a cellar in the half-light of dawn, I have slit before a black altar the throats of sacred bulls. For an entire lunar year, I have been declared invisible: I would cry out and no one would respond, I would steal bread and I was not beheaded. I have known what the Greeks knew not: uncertainty. In a brass chamber, before the strangler’s silencing scarf, hope has remained faithful; in the river of delights, panic stood steadfast. Heraclides Ponticus relates with admiration that Pythagoras recalled having been Pyrrhus, before him Euphorbus, and before him some other mortal; to recall analogous vicissitudes I need not find recourse in death, nor even imposture.
I owe this almost monstrous variety to an institution that other republics do not know, or which works imperfectly or secretly in them: the lottery. Into its history I have not delved; I know that the sages cannot manage to agree; I know of its powerful aims what a man not versed in astrology can know of the moon. I am of a vertiginous country where the lottery is a principal part of reality: until this very day, I have thought as little of it as I have the conduct of the inscrutable gods or of my own heart. Now, far from Babylon and its beloved customs, I think with some bewilderment of the lottery and of the blasphemous conjectures that the shrouded men murmur at twilight.
My father would recount that in ancient times — a question of centuries, of years? — the lottery in Babylon was a game with a plebeian character. He would relate (truthfully or not I cannot say) that barbers gave out rectangles made of bone or parchment and adorned with symbols in exchange for copper coins. In the full light of day, a drawing of lots would be held: the fortunate few would receive, without further corroboration by chance, money coined in silver. The procedure, as you can see, was simple.
Naturally, these ‘lotteries’ failed. Their moral virtue was nil. They did not appeal to all the faculties of man, only to his hope. In the face of the public’s indifference, the merchants who founded these venal lotteries began to lose money. Someone tried something new: the interpolation of a few adverse fortunes amongst the many favourable. With this reform, the buyers of numbered rectangles ran the double chance of winning a sum of money or of paying a fine, sometimes considerable. This slight danger (for every thirty favourable numbers there was one adverse) awoke, as is natural, the interest of the public. The Babylonians flocked to the game. He who did not purchase fortunes was considered pusillanimous, a yellow-belly. With time, this justified contempt found a further target: along with he who did not play, he who had lost out and did not pay his fine was also disdained. The Company (as it had begun to be called by then) had to protect the interests of the winners, who could not collect their winnings if there was lacking in the coffers the almost entire sum of the fines. Lawsuits were filed against the losers: the judge sentenced them to pay the original fine, plus court costs, or be put in jail for a time. So as to defraud the Company, they all opted for jail. From the daring of these few was born the source of the Company’s almightiness: its ecclesiastical and metaphysical significance.
A short while later, the lottery reports omitted the listing of fines and limited themselves to publishing the days of prison that each adverse number was worth. This laconicism, almost unnoticed at the time, was of capital importance. It was the first appearance of non-pecuniary elements in the lottery. Success was grand. Urged on by the lottery’s players, the Company was forced to increase the number of adverse fortunes.
It is widely known that the people of Babylon are devout followers of logic, and even of symmetry. To them, it was incoherent that the favourable numbers should result in rounded coins and the unfavourable in days and nights of incarceration. Some moralists reasoned that the possession of money did not always bring about happiness and that other forms of fortune are perhaps more immediate.
Another source of restlessness abounded in the down-at-heel neighbourhoods. The members of the sacerdotal college multiplied the stakes and rejoiced in the full range of hope’s and of terror’s vicissitudes; the poor, with an understandable or inevitable envy, knew themselves to be excluded from these notoriously delightful ups and downs. Everyone, rich and poor alike, had a justified yearning to participate equally in the lottery, which inspired an indignant agitation whose memory the years have not erased. Certain obstinate souls did not comprehend, or pretended not to comprehend, that they were dealing with a new order, a necessary historical stage… A slave stole a crimson ticket, a ticket that in the next drawing merited his having his tongue burnt to a crisp. The criminal code fixed the same penalty for a ticket’s theft. A number of Babylonians argued that he deserved the red-hot iron for his thieving; others, more magnanimous, that the public executioner should apply the lottery’s penalty as chance had so determined…
There were disturbances, there were lamentable effusions of blood; but the Babylonian people finally imposed their will and they achieved their generous ends against the opposition of the rich. Firstly, they forced the Company to assume full public power. (This unification was necessary given the vastness and complexity of the new operations.) Secondly, they made the lottery secret, general and free of charge. The mercenary sale of lots was abolished. Once initiated into the mysteries of Bel, all free men automatically took part in the sacred drawings of lots, all of which were held in the labyrinths of the god every sixty nights and determined each man’s destiny until the subsequent drawing. The consequences were incalculable. A happy drawing could instigate one’s elevation to the council of magi or the imprisonment of an enemy (well-known or private) or, in the peaceful dark of one’s room, one’s meeting the woman who has begun to make one fluster or who one was never expecting to see again; an adverse drawing: mutilation, a variety of infamies, death. Sometimes a single event — C’s assassination in a tavern, B’s mysterious apotheosis — was the brilliant result of thirty or forty drawings. Combining bets was difficult; we must remember, though, that the individuals of the Company were (and are) all-powerful and astute. In many cases, the knowledge that certain joys were simple fabrications of chance would have diminished their moral worth; to avoid this inconvenience, agents of the Company made use of suggestion and magic. Their moves, their manipulations, were secret. To get at everybody’s innermost hopes and fears, astrologers and spies were employed. There were certain stone lions, there was a sacred latrine called Qaphqa, there were fissures in a dusty aqueduct all of which, according to general opinion, led to the Company; persons malign or benevolent deposited exposés in these sites. An alphabetical archive collected these reports of varying veracity.
Incredibly, grumbling abounded. The Company, with its habitual discretion, did not reply directly. It preferred to scribble in the rubble of a mask factory a short line of reasoning which now forms part of the sacred scriptures. This doctrinal piece observed that the lottery is an interpolation of chance into the order of the world and that the acceptance of errors is not the contradiction of chance, but its corroboration. It observed also that those lions and the sacred squatting place, although not disclaimed by the Company (which did not renounce the right to consult them), functioned without official guarantee.
This declaration pacified the public’s unease. It also had other effects, perhaps not foreseen by its author: it profoundly modified the spirit and the operations of the Company. There remains little time — we have been told that the ship is about to set sail — but I will try to explain.
As improbable as it may seem, nobody until then had attempted to produce a general theory of games. The Babylonian is not speculative. He reveres the dictates of chance, surrendering his life, his hopes, his panicked terror to them, but it never occurs to him to delve into their labyrinthine laws, nor the giratory spheres from which they are revealed. Nonetheless, the officious declaration that I have mentioned inspired many discussions of a juridico-mathematical nature. From one of them was born the following conjecture: if the lottery is an intensification of chance, its periodic infusion into the cosmos, would it not be desirable then for chance to intervene in all stages of the drawing and not only in one? Is it not ridiculous that chance should dictate that a person die while the circumstances of that death — its confidentiality, its publicity, its timing an hour or a century into the future — are not subject to chance? These eminently reasonable scruples prompted in the end a considerable reform whose complexities (aggravated by centuries of practice) are understood only by a handful of specialists; I will attempt to summarise them regardless, even though I do so only symbolically.
Let us imagine a first drawing, one which condemns a man to death. In order for the sentence to be realised, another drawing is held that proposes, say, nine possible executioners. Of these nine, four might initiate a third drawing that will give the name of the eventual executioner, two might replace the drawing’s adverse result with a fortunate one (say, a treasure’s discovery), another might exacerbate the sentence of death (that is, a sentence made more infamous or embellished with torture), still others might refuse to carry it out…
Such is the lottery’s symbolic scheme. In reality, the number of drawings is infinite. No decision is final, each branch out into others. The ignorant suppose that infinite drawings require an infinite time; in reality, it is enough that time be infinitely divisible, as the famous parable of Achilles and the Tortoise demonstrates. This infinitude harmonises admirably with the sinuous numbers of Chance and the Celestial Archetype of the Lottery adored by Platonists…
A certain deformed echo of our ritual seems to have resounded along the Tiber: Aelius Lampridius, in his Life of Antoninus Heliogabalus, tells of how this emperor would write out on seashells the fortunes fated for his guests so that one would receive ten pounds of gold and another ten flies, ten dormice, ten bears. It is only right to recall that Heliogabalus was educated in Asia Minor, amongst the priests of his eponymous god.
There are also impersonal drawings without definite purposes: one will decree that a sapphire from Taprobana be thrown into the waters of the Euphrates; another, that a bird be released from atop a tower; another, that each century a grain of sand be removed (or added) to the innumerable found on the beach. Sometimes, the consequences are terrifying.
Under the beneficent influence of the Company, our customs are steeped in chance. The buyer of a dozen amphorae of Damascene wine would not be surprised if one were to contain a talisman or a viper; the scribe who draws up a contract very rarely fails to introduce some erroneous point; in this hasty declaration, I myself have embroidered a certain splendour, a certain atrocity; perhaps, too, a certain mysterious monotony…
Our historians, the orb’s most perspicacious, have invented a method for correcting chance. It is well known that the operations of this method are (in general) trustworthy; although, naturally, they are not divulged without a measure of deceit. In any case, there is nothing so contaminated with fiction as the history of the Company…
A paleographic document, exhumed in a temple, could well be the result of a drawing from the previous day or the previous century. No book is published without some variation between copies. Scribes take a secret oath to omit, interpolate, vary. Indirect falsehood is also practiced.
The Company, with divine modesty, eludes all publicity. Its agents, as is only natural, are secret; the orders it continually (perhaps incessantly) issues out are no different to those lavishly spread by impostors. Besides, who would boast of being a mere impostor? The inebriate who improvises an absurd mandate, the dreamer who suddenly awakes and with his own bare hands strangles to death the woman who sleeps by his side — are they not, perhaps, carrying out a secret decision of the Company’s? This silent working, comparable to God’s, inspires all manner of conjecture. One such example abominably insinuates that the Company ceased to exist centuries ago and that the sacred disorder in our lives is purely hereditary, traditional; another considers the Company to be eternal and teaches that it will endure until the last night, when the last god will annihilate the world. Another declares that the Company is omnipotent but that it exerts its influence only in the most trifling of matters: the cry of a bird, the shades of the rust and the dust, the half-asleep dreaming of dawn. Another, from the mouths of masked heresiarchs, claims that the Company has never existed and never will. Another, no less vile, reasons that to affirm or deny the reality of the Company is inconsequential, as Babylon is nothing but an infinite game of chance.