People gather in the town square, then they seem to be gathering up stones, especially the children, and then there’s the actual lottery. That means a drawing where someone is going to “win.” Now it turns out that after everybody pulls out their pieces of paper, and there’s this elaborate ritual where family units go and then the actual family members draw their numbers. But finally, Tessie Hutchinson, one of the housewives, one of the mothers in the community, gets the paper with the black dot on it, and she doesn’t win anything good. In fact, she is marked to die. The villagers grab up stones and stone her to death.
The reader may wonder why Shirley Jackson put such a horrifying story together, and what is she trying to say with it? Well we get one explanation of why this lottery even exists from one of the characters, Old Man Warner. He explains that there’s some connection between the corn that’s growing and this ritual. So he says, “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.” And that tells us that these people thought of it as a fertility ritual. Like, if you kill someone then the crops will be good. That is the only rationale, inside the story, that we get.