In The Lottery, Shirley Jackson captures the troubles of her time. The story is a moral allegory of a grisly execution. She reveals that even well educated, modern, cultured people, and societies can be led down the path to true evil, people like you and me can act like this! Tragic happenings such as the Holocaust or the institutional racism of Jim Crow laws and mandated segregation in the Southern states (up till the early 1960's) are true examples of this story. Between 1933 and 1945 the government, leaders, and the people of Germany systematically scapegoated, isolated, and targeted the Jewish population for eventual destruction. This horrifying event that is still well remembered today is called the Holocaust. .
The opening scenes are deceptively cheerful and innocent, and lead the reader to believe this is a heartwarming story of a country lottery. Also, that this town lottery is a country tradition, a drawing for a tractor or something of that sort. There is nothing sinister in the description of how Mr. Summers, Mr. Graves, and Mr. Martin manage the lottery. One gets the impression that they are prosperous and powerful men contributing to the happiness of the village, year after year. You would assume that the villagers are your typical, everyday, honest citizens. It's not until we are well into the story that we sense there is something seriously wrong with this bucolic picture.
The first indication that something might be amiss is the description of the boys gathering stones into large piles. However in the context of a country scene, boys gathering stones does not seem unusual. Boys will be boys, and boys like to throw stones. Another indication of something unusual is the detailed lists of heads of families and household members for each family that Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves were compiling. This parallels the early stages of the Holocaust where the Nazi regime began a detailed accounting and census of Germany's Jewish population as the first step of the "final solution".