Home Book Reviews Larry Decker in the Goldfinch: The Character All Gamblers Hate

Larry Decker in the Goldfinch: The Character All Gamblers Hate

by Jason Smith

Larry Decker in the Goldfinch: The Character All Gamblers Hate

Donna Tart, a widely acclaimed author, won the 2014 Pulitzer prize for her novel, The Goldfinch. Larry Decker, father of Theo, the main character of the novel, is a failed actor, alcoholic and compulsive gambler.

Are all gamblers like Larry and do they think his character truly represents that of gamblers? The short answer is no – there are many gamblers who play smartly, passionately and consciously. They are the exact opposite of Larry Decker whose gambling is out of control and has tragic consequences.

Larry Decker’s compulsive gambling 

Theo’s mother is killed by terrorists in an attack on the New York Art Museum and he is taken in by his father who had previously abandoned the family. Theo later realizes that Larry moved to Las Vegas with his girlfriend Xandra after he left the family home and took up professional gambling.

When Theo goes with Larry to Las Vegas, he is largely left to his own devices in their isolated desert home. Larry takes Theo out to dinner at times and has a superficial charm but he doesn’t take any responsibility for his actions, lies, shows a careless cruelty and continues to gamble compulsively. It is highly unlikely that he is playing at a $1 casino either, where he would be risking less money. He is obviously involved in some high stakes gambling.

Managing budgets at casino online

Gamblers who play for pleasure act very differently from gambling addicts in their preparation to playing at casinos, their general approach and the decisions they make at the tables.

They are likely to use the best worldwide online casinos, play a variety of games and know exactly how much they are going to bet each time. They are able to stop when they reach this limit, unlike compulsive gamblers who don’t know the meaning of the word ‘limit’.

Responsible gamblers make careful decisions about how much they can afford to use for gambling. They don’t risk money they can’t afford to lose. Their children’s education funds remain intact and they aren’t pursued by angry criminals because of the debt they’ve racked up.

Decision-making and gambling

Unlike other addictions, compulsive gamblers don’t have physical signs, like ‘Baccarat breath’ or ‘slots machine eyes’. Larry Decker seems quite charming at first and Theo doesn’t realize the full extent of his problems.

When Theo comes downstairs and sees Larry betting, Larry will hand him a $20 or $50, saying it is to pique his interest in gambling. Theo knows abstractedly that he can’t trust Larry but he can’t help craving a normal, loving connection with him.

It is only later that he realizes his father’s reason for fetching him from New York and taking him to Los Vegas was because he thought he had inherited money in his mother’s will. Larry was scheming to use the money to pay off his gambling debts.

The decisions of responsible gamblers aren’t driven by emotions of fear or greed. When compulsive gamblers start winning, they just want to keep playing although they will inevitably lose at some point. When they start losing, they keep chasing bets to try and turn their fortunes around, often getting deeper and deeper into trouble.

Addictions and gambling

Larry Decker is also an alcoholic and it has been confirmed that a compulsive gambling addition is increased if an individual has experienced addiction to alcohol. This raises the interesting question of whether addiction is more dependent upon an individual’s personality than the act of gambling itself.

Responsible gamblers know that if you drink too much while gambling it can impair your decision-making and lead to over-spending.

Larry Decker’s gambling habit turns dangerous and puts him and his family in danger. At one stage he talks about wanting to quit gambling before his addictive tendencies get the better of him. Yet at the same time, one of the signs of addictions is manipulating others to convince them that everything is under control when it’s not.

Unhealthy obsession or playing for pleasure

Larry’s gambling was an unhealthy obsession with deadly consequences. It strained his relationships, lead to financial disaster and brought him to the point where he didn’t think twice about stealing money from his own son. He ends up dying in a drunk-driving accident while trying to escape his gambling debts, abandoning Theo once again. His avoidance of responsibility is so extreme that it actually causes his death.

This is a far cry from responsible gambling. Responsible gamblers play because they enjoy playing and don’t use it as escapism in a negative sense. It can help them to relax and distress but it doesn’t cause them to neglect their real life responsibilities. Winning money does not become an obsession that overcomes all sense of responsibility and results in crazy, dangerous behavior.

When gambling is done responsibly, it poses no threat to you or your family. It can be an entertaining pastime to gamble responsibly, means that it stays that way.

A final word

Gambling is still a subject that divides public opinion although it’s clear that in most cases it is safe and enjoyable, contributing some benefits to local economies. There is a difference between those who gamble because it is fun, harmless activity and those for whom it becomes an unhealthy obsession that has complete control over them. The Larry Decker’s of the gambling world do not represent the majority of gamblers.

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