Dostoyevsky: The Gambler

Fyodor Dostoyevsky was a Russian 19th century writer and philosopher with a penchant for exploring human psychology in his literary works. His stories were set against a contemporary backdrop of 1800s Russia and give insight into the podostoyevskylitical and social attitudes of the time. His first novel was published in 1846 when he was still a young man of 25.

Dostoyevsky completed his short novel, The Gambler, in 1867. By that time, he’d been hooked on roulette for four years and was a regular player at the tables of Baden-Baden, Homburg, and Saxon-les-Bains. If he was alive today, he would undoubtedly enjoy playing roulette online as well. Like many devotees of the game, Dostoyevsky devised strategies to stack the odds in his favor but often found it difficult to walk away when ahead.

The plot of The Gambler revolves around Alexei Ivanovitch, a young tutor who works for a Russian family living in a German hotel. At the head of the family is the General, who, unbeknown to Alexei, is stricken with debt. Alexei becomes unwittingly embroiled in the family’s financial strife when he falls in love with Polina, the General’s devious but alluring stepdaughter.

Polina asks Alexei to place a bet for her at the local casino before he becomes aware of his employer’s circumstances. He turns out to be adept at roulette and later wins a fortune, but loses the love of Polina to his old English acquaintance, the wealthy Mr Astley. Pained by this experience, Alexei is then seduced by the General’s former love, Mademoiselle Blanche de Cominges, who happily spends his money for her social gain in Paris before ditching him, finally, for the General.

Down on his luck as far as love, used, and cast out of employment, Alexei falls back on his gambling skill just to survive. Then he bumps into Mr Astley, who says that Polina still loves him and has come into wealth by inheritance. She is living in Switzerland. Despite all the ill fortune Polina has brought him in the past, Alexei dreams of returning to her. There the story ends.