It is morning on June 27th (we're not given a year), and it's a lovely summer day.
Around ten o'clock, villagers start gathering in the town square, which is situated between the post office and the bank.
We learn that there are other villages with such large populations that it takes them two full days to complete the lottery; they have to start two days earlier to make up for it.
This particular village has about three hundred people, so they can start at ten and be done by supper.
Children are the first to gather. Bobby Martin fills his pocket with stones; the other boys copy him. They choose smooth and round stones. Harry Jones and Dickie Delacroix put the stones in one giant pile in one corner of the square. The girls keep to themselves.
The men gather and talk the usual farmer talk: weather, planting, taxes. They seem subdued – "they smiled rather than laughed."
The women arrive after the men and call for their children, who obey reluctantly.
Mr. Summers, who runs a coal business, is the man in charge of all civic events. He is in charge of the lottery, and we learn that people feel sorry for him because he has no children and his wife likes to nag him.
He arrives carrying a black wooden box.
Mr. Graves, the postmaster, follows Mr. Summers carrying a three-legged stool. The box is placed upon the stool. Mr. Summers mixes up the papers inside the box.
We learn that the original material for the lottery was lost a long time ago, but that the black box has been used as far back as living memory.
Each year, Mr. Summers talks about replacing the box, because it's getting old and shabby, but it represents tradition to the villagers.
Mr. Martin and his oldest son, Baxter, steady the box as Mr. Summers thoroughly mixes the papers. In the past, they used chips of wood, but Mr. Summers successfully lobbied to replace these chips with slips of paper.
Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves are in charge of creating the slips of paper.
There's a bunch of bureaucratic processes to complete before the lottery begins.
We learn that the whole ritual behind the lottery has changed over time – for example, there used to be a salute used to address each person who drew from the box, but now it's considered acceptable for the official merely to speak to the person drawing.
Mr. Summers talks to Mr. Graves and the Martins for some time before finally turning to the villagers. The lottery is about to commence. (The moment we've all been waiting for.)
Mrs. Hutchinson comes hurrying along and joins the back of the crowd. She tells Mrs. Delacroix that she had forgotten about the lottery until she realized her kids weren't home.
Mrs. Delacroix reassures Mrs. Hutchinson that she didn't miss anything.
Mrs. Hutchinson looks for her family and sees them at the front of the crowd. As she goes to join them, the crowd alerts her husband. Mrs. Hutchinson tells her husband that she had to wash the dishes.
Mr. Summers tells the crowd they'd better get started, and checks for absentees. A man named Dunbar has a broken leg, so his wife is drawing for him. Her eldest boy is not yet of age, or else he would be drawing in his father's place.
Mr. Summers accounts for everyone, including Old Man Warner, then goes over the rules of the lottery. He will call for the head of the household, who will then take a paper from the box and keep it hidden in his hand until everyone has had a turn.
The villagers are familiar with the rules; only half of them are listening to Mr. Summers.
Mr. Summers begins to call roll, and various men come forward to take their slips of paper.
Mrs. Delacroix and Mrs. Graves gossip in the back row about how time flies. The last lottery feels very recent.
Delacroix is called, and Mrs. Delacroix holds her breath as her husband moves forward.
More and more people obtain slips of paper and hold them nervously as the rest of the villagers come forward.
Mr. Adams tells Old Man Warner about talk in another village about giving up the lottery. Old Man Warner scoffs at the idea.
Mrs. Adams tells him that some places have given up the lottery.
Mrs. Dunbar wishes it was over. She tells her son to ready himself to run back and tell his father the news.
Mr. Summers selects a slip of paper from the box for himself and then calls Old Man Warner forward. Old Man Warner tells the crowd that this is the seventy-seventh time he's been in the lottery.
After two more names, Mr. Summers allows everyone to open their slip of paper. We learn that Bill Hutchinson has "it," whatever "it" is. Mrs. Dunbar tells her son to go inform his father.
Tess Hutchinson, his wife, immediately begins to protest. Her friends attempt to calm her, and her husband tells her to be quiet.
We learn that the Hutchinsons have three children: Bill, Jr., Nancy, and Dave.
Five slips of paper go into the box and each member of the family is forced to select a slip. As Nancy draws her slip, a girl clearly whispers that she hopes Nancy is not chosen, and Old Man Warner grumbles that times have changed.
Each member of the Hutchinson family opens his or her slip of paper, and one by one they are exonerated until only Tess is left. Her slip of paper has a black spot on it.
Mr. Summers urges the crowd to finish quickly. The villagers pick up the stones gathered earlier. Mrs. Delacroix picks up an enormous stone as Mrs. Dunbar tells her to go on ahead.
Tess stands in the center of the crowd, saying that it isn't fair. Her own son has a few pebbles in hand. A stone hits her as Old Man Warner encourages the crowd.