Essay on Money and Gambling: A Literary Exploration of the Past

Published: 2023-11-12
Essay on Money and Gambling: A Literary Exploration of the Past
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Finance Literature Money
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1654 words
14 min read

Money and gambling are two consistent themes that have featured in numerous works of literature from all parts of the world. From Russia to England, France to Spain, these two aspects have been written about for centuries hence their underlying importance or impacts in the societies of old. People in the past societies actively participated in the game of numbers, including the card game (faro) and the opera or Pique Dame, as it has been known for centuries in France. Other societies have relied upon the game of numbers to predict fate or win stakes at national or international betting competitions. Across Europe, highborn gamblers largely favored gambling games, especially faro, which later got introduced to some other parts of the world such as the United States in the early 90s before it vanished again as early as 1925(Beauchamp 69). Only a few casinos in some states like Nevada still played the game up well into the 20th century. Numerous literary works have been known for their serious take regarding money and gambling hence the need to delve into the significances of these aspects and what they meant in the society. English writer and poet David Herbert Lawrence and Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin are two of the many authors whose short stories on the subject of money have gathered interests and intrigue from readers across the world. Lawrence’s “Rocking Horse Winner” intertwines creativity with importance on the same issue, and what it meant in the early English society. At the same time, Pushkin’s “The Queen of Spades” does the same in the romantic era in Russia. This paper presents an interpretive argumentative perspective comparing these two stories concerning money and its significance in the two societies.

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In both stories, money comes with a status no matter who you are; provided one has it, their perception in the society changes. In “The Rocking-Horse Winner,” Hester, the mother of the three children, is concerned about looking rich to maintain a particular perception of the English society (Lawrence 525). Lawrence brings to the attention of the readers that society looks at you differently is if you are rich. A critical look at this situation reveals that the outward perception is enough to fool people even if, in the real sense, there is no money. Hester’s family does a great job of maintaining the outward look with a modest lifestyle in a modest home, and her family has workers. However, the constant whisper in the house reminds the readers that there is not enough money, and there should be more. Lawrence projects an image through the character of Hester to make people believe they are in a good financial situation, and she is doing a great job in loving and taking care of her children. That picture is merely a façade, but only the family members know the truth.

Similarly, in “The Queen of Spade,” Pushkin projects an image that places a great significance in money and how the Russian society of the romantic era viewed those who had money. The motivation to not only turn around his lifestyle and that of Lizaveta pushes Hermann, a Russian soldier, to seek a fortune. Hermann’s motivation to win a high-stakes card game called faro drives him to visit the old countess who not only was a colleague’s grandmother but also knew the winning secret of the cards game(Pushkin 3). A critical look at Hermann’s situation reveals that despite being an army officer who was not originally a gambler, more money can bring a huge change and command more respect from society.

The two authors make a common maneuver through their storytelling that money is equivalent to good luck; a short cut to a good life. Indeed, in the two compared societies, money elevates individuals to a good social rank. The instruments used to make money, in the two cases, Paul and the countess, are not in a good financial standing within the two stories before the winning formulas are revealed. Hester makes it clear to her children that the rich are so because they are lucky. Looking at affluence at a critical angle shows that rich people in English society are living good adorable lives. Anything below such a lifestyle is frowned upon, setting up a clash of social classes. Scholarly critics have argued that Lawrence’s own life followed a peasantry as his family moved up the social ladder, and that explains why he cleverly elevates the perspective of Hester’s family, albeit vaguely(Beauchamp 69). In “The Queen of Spades,” Hermann explains to his fellow soldiers that he wishes to build a “fortune” to elevate his status in the society but does not want to risk resources in gambling (Pushkin 4). Because Hester links money to luck, and Paul wants to gain money through a mysterious style and consider it luck, Lawrence proves that for one to have a good life, there should be some kind of a shortcut. It is the reason why Paul rides his mysterious horse to predict races and win. Pushkin uses the countess as a route through which Hermann could gain money and live a good life. In both, supernatural occurrences are connected to winning, providing a sense that mystery is related to money, which guarantees good life and higher social perception.

A comprehensive view of these two stories indicates that money gives an image of success and drives out poverty. Paul’s participation in the horse race stakes is aided by his mysterious rock-horse to determine which horse will win. His motivation to ‘know’ the winning horse through his magical rock-horse is to gain luck and prove to his mother that he is lucky opposite to Hester’s claims (Lawrence 527). Looking at the real situation in Hester’s family makes one believe the family is not doing well financially, and Paul is aware of that. Anyone determined to end poverty could try their luck in anything that can change their status. Notably and surprisingly, Paul wins, and things change for Hester’s family as Paul is sent to an elite school. On the other hand, with the numbers given to him by the countess’ ghost, Hermann wins in the first two rounds despite losing on the third(Pushkin 11). The main objective in both scenarios is that each set of characters is seeking money and fortune through gambling to get out of poverty.

Ironically, the old countess had the secrets to success, but she was not rich, something that bewilders the reader of Pushkin’s story. While she gives her winning numbers in the form of a ghost, she transfers the ability to someone else, unlike Paul, who does everything himself. Hermann, unfortunately, loses on the third round with the Queen of Spade, and also at life. Paul’s family, however, gains from his monetary fortunes (Lawrence 535). The fact that Hermann loses all his money and goes mad is reflective of one’s fate in life and not choices. Games and money are symbolic of metaphors for life because fate determines the outcome.

It can be argued, and undoubtedly so that the pursuit of money and fortunes does not have a good ending for certain characters in the two stories. The characters that could predict the games and get the winning tickets to die. Before his death, Paul manages to predict the correct winnings and gets eighty thousand pounds. However, his mysterious activities with the rocking-horse develop to intense levels making him sick until he dies. The countess also dies from fright after Hermann threatens her with a gun to reveal the secret of winning the stakes (Pushkin 10). The deaths of the two characters from the two stories can be taken to implicitly mean that it is all vanity at the end of it all. The two authors seem to suggest that life is a mirage with nothing fulfilling for those who chase goals. While that is a valid point, it can be countered by the fact that Paul achieved his goal of proving to his mother that he was lucky, albeit in a supernatural way. One can also argue, and rightly so, that money was not of great significance because despite winning a lot of money to settle debts and raise their living standards, Hester’s family changes their objectives in life. Despite having the winning numbers, Hermann loses money and runs mad. A counter-argument to this argument is that when a goal is achieved, other needs and wants must surface depicting human’s needs and wants as recurrent things that never end.

In conclusion, the meaning of money and its significance in the two stories take a great deal of significance. Money, as has been shown through particular characters in the story, is the motive behind all the efforts that people make. Money papers the cracks over unpleasant life situations to make them look brighter on the outside hence a different societal perception of people. Money is synonymous with good luck and provides a short route to a good life. It also ends poverty. However, it can be noted that the pursuit of a better life through shortcuts to get money can have serious consequences that do not end in bliss, making the whole thing a vicious cycle that never ends.

Works Cited

Beauchamp, Gorman. "Lawrence’S The Rocking-Horse Winner." The Explicator, vol 31, no. 5, 1973, pp. 69-70. Informa UK Limited, doi:10.1080/00144940.1973.11483144.

Lawrence, D. H."The Rocking-Horse Winner." The Story and Its Writer. Ed. Anna Charters. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford, 2011. pp. 525-536

Pushkin, Alexander. The Queen Of Spades: Tales, Novels Journeys-The Complete Prose Of Alexander Pushkin. Alfred A. Knopf, 2016, pp. 1-13, Accessed 10 Aug 2020.

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