Since the existence of the concept of possessions, concept of money, or valuable currency of any kind, society has instilled the notion that the more you have, the higher one’s level in society. This, on a more positive side, has provided many artists, especially authors, with a “gold-mine” for material. Victorian society developed many authors that utilized the topic of gambling in their now famous literary masterpieces.
The power of gambling has bestowed upon authors throughout history, especially Victorian authors, with a rich topic that portrays the conduct of Victorian high society, as in Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now, and even the means for female emancipation and independence as in George Eliot’s Daniel Deroda.
First of all, Victorians stereotypically behaved in frivolous and ostentatious manners, though they had to maintain a very rigid image before society; in spite of these social rules, the upper echelon of Victorian society loved to enjoy the money they had in many different ways, especially through gambling. This, though it may not be the central theme of famous Victorian novels, does show through in many novels such as Anthony Trollope’s novel The Way We Live Now. The novel speaks of a club called The Beargarden. The Beargarden defined many of the characters in this novel such as Sir Felix Carbury, Lord Nidderdale, Lord Grasslough, and Dolly Longestaffe. This sporting club and its members spent a lot of time in leisure activites, one of them being gambling. It became a pastime for these members of high society, and since these characters spent the vast majority of their time there, they spent numerous hours gambling. As long as they had the resources, they could enjoy life gambling all they pleased.
Next, interestingly enough, gambling in Victorian society demonstrated itself to be a very useful tool for women to detach themselves from the strictly patriarchal, unyielding—or so it wished to appear—society. Women had no voice, hardly; everything was referred to or deferred to their most immediate male “overseer,” their father or brothers if they were not married or their husbands if they were.
Victorian women were basically treated as objects of beauty and daintiness. This could frustrate anyone. So, one way women found to gain a little independence, or at least the illusion of it, was through gambling. Gambling gave them the control over their lives they desired as well as the thrill they craved from life. In George Eliot’s novel Daniel Deroda, this is observed in the character of Gwendolen. Daniel Deroda, the title character, watches Gwendolen as she gambles, contemplating and deciding if she is pretty. Gwendolen is playing roulette, a classic casino game. She was trying to separate from her marital issues and her family problems, both of which embody the patriarchal Victorian society. The classic casino chance game of roulette by stroke of luck brings the two together, creating yet another link between gambling, patriarchal independence and society—finding love outside the rules of arranged marriages typical in Victorian society.
In conclusion, gambling has found its way into modern literature depicting many different manifestations of its power, but it is not always so negative. Gambling can be a fun leisurely pastime or something as rouge and intriguing as a means for social independence. One, the other, or every way in between, gambling most certainly unites us all in one way. That would be the sheer pleasure of winning and enjoying a moment of chance and thrill with friends and family.