Greed and Obsession in Literary Works

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Greed and Obsession in Literary Works

Both Pushkin’s “The Queen of Spades” and the movie 21, based off of Ben Mezrich’s Bring Down the House, share a similar plot structure that highlights the self-destructive effects of greed and obsession. While gambling for monetary gain may seem trivial and irrational to the average person since the probability of making millions is incredibly slim, some people are enthralled by the idea that they could possibly have all of problems solved if they play their cards right. In the end, these gamblers succumb to their impulsive behavior by continuing to play their lives away. In each story, the main character is a victim to their own greed as they progressively become obsessed with winning.

In “The Queen of Spades,” Hermann is a simple officer who has no interest in gambling; however, one night while watching his peers play cards, he listens to the story of the Countess winning her fortune with a secret three-card combination. Intrigued by this, he takes an interest in the Countess in order to learn the secret. Similarly, Ben Campbell, an MIT student, has no interest in blackjack, but after noticing his extraordinary mathematical talent, his professor, Mickey Rosa, recruits him for a gambling operation. Instead of a secret card combination, they employ a system of card counting that exponentially increases their probability of winning at the poker tables. Both characters can be classified under a literary archetype where an innocent character is lulled into evil or darkness by a devil character. An example of this would be Eve from the Garden of Eden who is tempted by the serpent into consuming the forbidden fruit or how Anakin Skywalker is persuaded to join the dark side by the Dark Lord who undermines his faith in the Jedi. This occurs in many other works of literature, and takes many different forms. However, this is not as transparent in “The Queen of Spades” or 21 because there is no distinct source of evil, but what...
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