The Lottery by Maria Edgeworth: Summary and Review

the cover of the book "the lottery" next to text that says "maria edgeworth the lottery book summary and review"

Did you know they had lotteries back in the 1800s? I didn’t. 

So I was intrigued when I laid my eyes on The Lottery, written by Maria Edgeworth. 

And thus began my 48-page journey into the exploration of lottery and its perception amongst the masses – then and now.

The Lottery by Maria Edgeworth: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story revolves around a diligent working-class family, a man named Maurice, his dedicated and empathetic wife Elleen, and their young kid George. Maurice’s aunt, an older woman named Mrs. Dolly, comes down to live with them. They are on about living their life, mostly in peace, somewhat peppered by Mrs. Dolly’s harmless tantrums until one day, the discussion is directed to the subject of lotteries.

Mrs. Dolly is vehemently in favor of buying lotteries; after all, what’s there to lose? Seeing that this argument doesn’t seem to sway Maurice much, she appeals to his love for the kid and the hope of making a better life for him.

Surely, a man should try his luck, if not for his own, at least for his children’s sake!

Mr. Deane, a friend of Maurice, whom Mrs. Dolly isn’t particularly fond of, vehemently opposed lotteries. The dangers were too grave for an individual and his family’s present and the future.

If a man set his heart upon the turning of the lottery wheel, he would leave off putting his hand to anything the whole year around, grow idle, and may be drunken, then at the year’s end, if he have a blank, what is he to do for his rent, and for his wife and children, that have nothing to depend upon but him and his industry

Being the trusted friend that Mr. Deane was, the family decides not to entertain the idea of lotteries any more. Mrs. Dolly takes to another one of her tantrums to express her disapproval of the family decision.

She was so low that even her accustomed dose of brandy, in her tea, had no effect.

maria edgeworth the lottery book cover
The Lottery

Maurice finally succumbed and purchased the lottery ticket to appease Mrs. Dolly. Lo and Behold! Their ticket did win a handsome prize of five thousand dollars. Mrs. Dolly was over the moon hearing the news and immediately started thinking of their plans. New house, new coach, anything that would make them sophisticated. She advises Maurice not to work, as it would not reflect well on a family as wealthy as theirs to be working to make money.

Maurice obliged but found himself with nothing to do. He wasn’t accustomed to living his days doing nothing.

He gaped and gaped, and lounged about every morning and looked a hundred times at his new watch, and put it to his ear to listen whether it was going, the time seemed to him to pass so slowly.

The family, mainly Maurice and Mrs. Dolly, got accustomed to this new life; while the former spent a lot of his time outside the home, the latter indulged even more in her alcoholic pursuits.

Brandy and peppermint, taken together, was an infallible remedy for all complaints, low spirits included.

One night, Maurice, who looked utterly disturbed and tormented, confided in his wife that he had lost all of their fortunes on the gaming table. His wife Elleen, although wholly saddened by the news, continued to stay by his side, consoling and comforting him. They get similar information from Mrs. Dolly, who seems to have squandered her wealth with all her drinking. Not soon after, she has a terrible accident, resulting in a broken leg and a fractured skull, and later succumbs to the injuries.

With the help of an acquaintance and Mr. Dean, the family soon finds a way to live their honest, diligent life again, swearing never to let the lottery sway them. Nothing is more important than good character and the importance of a loving and supporting family.

A good character and domestic happiness, which can not be won in any lottery, are worth more than the five thousand or even the ten thousand pound prize, let any Mrs Dolly in Christendom say what she will, to the contrary.

The Lottery: Review and My Thoughts

Yea, I hear you. None of this is news. It wasn’t news to me either. But isn’t it curious to see how we as humans did not change in two centuries? 

We apparently, brought and squandered lottery wins then, and surprise, surprise! We continue to pride ourselves in doing that now. I was surprised the other day when I read the article on the proportion of lottery winners that end up bankrupt. 


From the way Edgeworth introduced Mrs. Dolly’s character, you could sense she was a ticking time bomb. Her take on no good ‘bookish’ laddies was hilarious. 

She had seen a deal of life, she said, and never saw no good come of bookish bodies; and she was sorry to see that her own darling George, was taking to the bookish line, and that his mother encouraged him in it.

Believe in the spin of the wheels and stay away from books to live the ‘good life’ – the advice has ‘wisdom’ written all over it.

All jokes aside, what stood out the most to me was this little nugget, which resonated with me, bringing back memories of my mother’s advice all those years ago.

Suffering for folly does nobody any good unless it makes them wiser in the future.

Odds are in favor of that one. 

Wanna bet?


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