Finishing a Good Book – Like Losing a Friend

An interesting thought-piece from Christina Wehner about Game Theory and Jane Austen’s work as proposed in Jane Austen:Game Theorist by Michael Suk-Young Chwe. Christina mentions that she was reading Trollope’s The Way We Live Now concurrently with Chwe’s book. I would have thought that Melmotte in The Way We Live Now is a classic example of a applied game theory, making strategic moves almost like a chess-player to win the game and make a fortune in railroad speculation.

Of course, Trollope also identified, like Austen, that the matrimonial game was played for the highest of stakes by almost all his female heroines, reflecting the need in Victorian society for women to make a good marriage to secure their futures. One thinks of Arabella Trefoil in The American Senator and her machinations to ensnare Lord Rufford, as a bigger catch than John Morton, who she already had “in the bag”.

Of course, the game was not only crucial to Victorian women, but, as Trollope observed, to Victorian men. The upkeep of estates was expensive and no longer was land the guarantee of income that it had been in pre-industrial England. Thus, the sons of titled landowners were obliged to play the game and seek financially advantageous alliances with the daughters of the nouveau riches merchant class and even those who made their money through trade. “He must marry money.” That terrible refrain of Lady Gresham about her son Frank who is to inherit the impoverished Greshambury estate in Dr Thorne.

Perhap Chwe could extend his study to incorporate Trollope’s novels?

Christina Wehner

IMG_1815Reading is a very companionable occupation. One can never feel alone while reading. It’s like making friends (hopefully good friends). As a result of this friendship, I am always conscious of regret whenever I finish a really good or engaging book. It’s like saying goodbye to a friend who is about to take a tour around the world.

Sometimes, the regret is because the book is very long and it took my several months to read it. This happened to me earlier in the year when I finished Don Quixote for the first time. I had all the memories of reading it in hospital waiting rooms and by my bedside and even though I was conscious of the desire to finish it – which always increases the closer you get to the end – when I actually achieved my goal it was bittersweet. I didn’t want to lay it aside, it felt…

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One response to “Finishing a Good Book – Like Losing a Friend

  1. I actually finished it just before starting the next, but you are absolutely right. TWWLN and the novels by Trollope are perfect examples of game theory in action. I didn’t think of it. Augustus Melmotte, definitely, and even people like Lady Carbury, who was always scheming about how to get good reviews for her novels and maneuvering so she would know and flattered the right people.

    Even people who don’t appear to think strategically still do, like Lord Nidderdale and even Dolly…in regards to his knowing, but still allowing, Squercum to cheat him because he thinks it will benefit him in the long run to have him as a lawyer. Dolly knows what he wants – admittedly not as much as some people – and makes sure he gets it.

    It’s an interesting contrast and irony how the actions of Dolly – not usually a great strategic thinker – proves to be a big reason for the undoing of August Melmotte, who knew how to play the game of finance.

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