Analysis Of The Poem ' Horse And Gentlemen '

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In his essay, “Horse and Gentlemen,” T.H. Breen describes the cultural significance of gambling, specifically in relation to the quarter-horse races, in late 17th century Virginia. Breen primarily argues that the three main aspects of gambling – competitiveness, materialism, and individualism – reflected and reinforced the socio-economic structure of Virginia in this period. The high stakes wagers of the affluent planters reinforced their dominant status in the social structure and the gentry’s right to rule over this colony. Breen’s argument to this effect is supported by letters, court transcripts, documentation of wagers, and other written first-hand accounts. Breen’s case for the cultural significance of gambling has persuasive arguments for its representation of competitiveness and materialism. However, his argument for individualism has contrary elements and his essay would have been improved with the inclusion of women’s role in the gambling culture. Gambling in any form is an inherently competitive activity. Breen argues that this fundamental competitiveness was important for the gentry to air their grievances in a non-violent outlet and that it provided a chance to improve their social standing. Breen begins by describing the household wagers that took place between the wealthiest planters. Durand of Dauphine, a Frenchman, observed the gentlemen from the House of Burgesses begin their gambling after dinner and attested to them still gambling when he arose in the
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