High Stakes in Fiction: Examining the Allure of Gambling in Literature and Сinematography

High Stakes in Fiction: Examining the Allure of Gambling in Literature and Сinematography

August 30, 2023 Off By idswater

Today, gambling is one of the most popular recreational activities across different parts of the world. Individuals from varying backgrounds participate in the activity to kill time, get rid of pent-up energy, or even inject some thrill into an otherwise dull day or over the weekend after a hectic working week. Casino slots games and lotteries are often the most popular picks for players, but table games and sports betting are also widespread among different demographics.

Well, as a prevalent form of entertainment enjoyed by vast populations for decades, it is not a surprise that the pastime activity is depicted in countless literary texts and films. The portrayal of this well-known chance-based activity in the said media is often used to give insight into its possible benefits and drawbacks if not conducted responsibly. And that’s why we are here today. Let’s dive deeper into how the literature and the film industries strongly explore the psychological, emotional, and societal implications of the widely popular activity.

Satirical Social Inferences

In literature, a game of chance can represent more significant social issues. In Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery,” the yearly drawing symbolizes societal structures’ destructive and oppressive nature. The story emphasizes the dangers of groupthink and unquestioning loyalty to tradition.

Similarly, in the Hong Kong film ‘The God of Gamblers,’ the gambling underground represents the corrosive and violent parts of Hong Kong society. The film depicts a society where success or failure can have disastrous consequences and where deception and guile are necessary for existence.

Financial Motif

Financial gain is commonly mentioned as a motivator for fictional gamblers. A character may gamble to get out of a financial bind or to improve their social position. Excellent examples include:

  • In “The Great Gatsby,” the protagonist, Jay Gatsby, utilizes gambling to earn social favor and attract the attention of a possible mate. He flaunts his wealth and prestige via high-stakes gaming and expensive parties;
  • Like Eddie Felson in “The Color of Money,” he gambles to acquire the respect he feels he is owed. In his opinion, gaming is a way to establish his image as a proficient pool player while safeguarding his value.

Meanwhile, in literature, casino gaming is frequently used as a metaphor to illustrate the dangers of habit-building and an overwhelming desire for money. For instance:

  • Lily Bart’s downfall in “The House of Mirth” is exacerbated by her dependency on gambling to pay her lavish expenses;
  • The protagonist of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Gambler,” Alexei Ivanovich, is also a compulsive gambler who develops an unhealthy obsession with the roulette wheel. His game is motivated by depression and futility.

These examples demonstrate that the costs of addiction are considerable and that the quest for money and success through relishing in casino games may be a double-edged sword.

Additionally, the likes of “Jerry & Marge Go Large,” a comedy-drama film by David Frankel, portray the importance of making calculated moves with gambling and trying to identify loopholes that can help you bag the big bucks. And in case you didn’t know, the film is based on a true story about the discovery of a mathematical loophole in the WinFall lottery in Michigan.

Psychological and Emotional Depth

The representation of psychological and emotional gravity in literature and films helps people relate profoundly to characters and their situations. With its uncertainties, possible rewards, and potential problems, casino-based gaming provides an intriguing backdrop for investigating the human mind and the complex emotions connected with taking chances.

Indeed, chance-based entertainment may be employed as a literary metaphor to explore bigger issues of risk, fate, and the human condition. Characters that gamble frequently depict a variety of psychological depths, such as the attractiveness of risk-taking, the thrill of uncertainty, the depths of addiction, and the consequences of excessive behavior. Insightful portrayals of such dimensions of human psychology can be seen in these two characters in some of the best gambling movies of all time:

  • Axel’s obsession in “The Gambler” is motivated by his powerlessness and despair. He believes that gaming will help him forget about his problems and relieve the mental torment he’s been experiencing;
  • Philip Marlowe, the protagonist of “The Big Sleep,” likewise goes to the races for the night to unwind after his investigation.

These examples show that while gaming might be a crutch for dealing with emotional and life issues, it seldom delivers on its promise of long-term happiness.

It’s All About Control

You may not realize it, but by placing a character in a gambling game and seeing what they do, a writer or filmmaker is always trying to teach you something not only about gambling activities but about the complexity and interconnection of all life situations. So, really, the most notable lesson from gambling literature and films is the practice of control to balance risk and rewards, not only when playing but when living in general.