For hundreds of years, authors have been exploring the human fascination with gambling through their stories. The appeal of a casino or a racetrack has been a staple of fiction for millennia, appearing everywhere from ancient tales and folklore to contemporary works of fiction. The psychology of gambling is a fascinating topic because it lets readers get inside the heads of people who gamble and gain insight into their reasons and mental processes.
Here, we’ll try to understand the psychology of gambling and why fictional figures take to the tables, and see what we can learn from their actions. We’re going to take a close look at some of the most well-known literary instances of gambling, dissecting the writers’ intentions and the characters’ psychology in order to learn more about the subject.
Financial gain is frequently cited as a driving factor behind fictional gamblers. A character might wager to get out of a tight spot financially or to increase their standing in society. The protagonist Jay Gatsby of “The Great Gatsby,” for instance, uses gambling as a means to gain social favor and attract the attention of his potential mate. The high-stakes gambling and extravagant parties he hosts are all ways he flaunts his riches and prestige. Like Eddie Felson in “The Color of Money,” he gambles to gain the esteem he believes he is due. Gambling, in his mind, is a means to cement his image as a competent pool player and secure his value.
But books also warn us about the risks of gaming. Gambling is often used as an allegory to highlight the perils of habit formation and excessive lust for wealth in literature. In “The House of Mirth,” for instance, Lily Bart’s collapse is precipitated by her reliance on gaming to fund her lavish lifestyle. Alexei Ivanovich, the protagonist of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Gambler,” is also an obsessive gambler who develops an unhealthy fixation on the roulette wheel. Depression and futility drive his gaming. We can learn from these examples that the costs of addiction are high, and that the desire of riches and success through gaming can be a double-edged blade.
Literature’s protagonists take risks because they are looking for excitement. There’s an element of suspense and thrill to gambling that might appeal to fictional characters who thrive on the thrill of the unexpected. Casino Royale features James Bond playing a high-stakes game of baccarat against a Soviet operative. Bond is driven by a combination of factors, including the chance to show off his abilities and the excitement of risk-taking. In “The Cincinnati Kid,” the protagonist is also a youthful, driven poker player who wants to make his name known far and wide. In writing, the allure of journey and the drive to create a reputation for oneself can serve as potent driving forces.
Conversely, characters might turn to gambling as a means of relieving stress or dulling the sting of emotional loss. Alexei Ivanovich’s obsession in “The Gambler” is driven by his helplessness and despondence. Gambling, he thinks, will help him forget about his troubles and ease the mental anguish he’s been feeling. The protagonist of “The Big Sleep,” Philip Marlowe, also goes to the races for the night in order to de-stress from his inquiry. These anecdotes demonstrate that gaming can be a crutch for dealing with emotional and life challenges, but that it rarely delivers on its promise of bringing lasting satisfaction.
In writing, the game of chance can symbolize deeper social problems. In Shirley Jackson’s short tale “The Lottery,” the yearly drawing represents the detrimental and repressive character of social systems. The tale makes a point about the perils of groupthink and unquestioning adherence to custom. Similarly, in the Hong Kong film “The God of Gamblers,” the underworld of gaming serves as a symbol for the corrosive and aggressive aspects of Hong Kong society. The film portrays a world where success or failure can have dire repercussions, and where deceit and guile are necessities for survival.
You should know that literature’s depiction of gaming is not always bad. Even when depicted negatively, it can stand for a protagonist’s boldness to grasp chances and pursue their passions.
The Gambler, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, is a prime illustration of this type of story. Alexei Ivanovich, the protagonist, is a teenage teacher who falls in love with Polina, the niece of his boss. As his infatuation grows, he starts taking increasingly risky actions to try and win her over. He sees his failure after failure as a chance to show his affection for her and keeps trying anyway, even though he knows it’s a gamble.
As such, literary gaming often represents the human predicament. Gambling evokes strong emotions in us, both the euphoria of victory and the despair of loss. It can stand in for our capacity to take chances and accept the unknown, as well as our goals, desires, aims, and remorse.
The overall depiction of gambling and its psychology in literature is intricate and multidimensional. Although it can serve as a cautionary tale about the perils of addiction and excess, it can also be used to probe the human heart and mind. The books on gambling can teach us about the psyche of risk-taking and decision-making in general, which can help us improve our own decision-making and wagering.