Analysis of "The Bet"

Topics: Morality, Anton Chekhov, Value Pages: 2 (681 words) Published: January 19, 2011
Analysis of "The Bet"

"The Bet" is a short story that explores a moral theme regarding the value of human life as seen through two perspectives.   However, the story is constructed with an important, ironic twist that brings the reader back to the original context of the bet (if the lawyer could endure solitary confinement for fifteen years), and presents an unexpected result.   One can ultimately see that Anton Chekhov presents the readers with two different paths in the story. One path is that of an old banker who refuses to face his own morality and the other is the lawyer (prisoner) who is a younger man in his mid-twenties facing his own morality, but falls into despair because he is so disconnected from the outside world even after gaining extensive amounts of knowledge during his fifteen years in solitary confinement.   These two characters may thrive on change, but they both alter their own human values in several significant ways.  

The banker, a spoiled and pampered man, is very nervous and becomes carried away by excitement at the time he makes a bet with the lawyer.   This is shown when he says, "Fifteen! Done...Gentlemen, I stake two millions"(412).   Chekhov shows the reader that this is an impulsive act one would expect of someone youthful since he describes it as excitability, which he could not get over even in the advancing years. Later in the story, Chekhov paints the portrait of a cowardly man who lacks the courage to endure the reality of his situation.   One day before the lawyer is to be granted his freedom, the banker becomes irritated and highly anxious, "The only escape from bankruptcy and disgrace--is that the man should die"(414).   At this point, the reader can trace the banker's path from boastfully making a foolish bet to being the one to give up all that he had staked, and conclude that his personal values have reached an all-time low.

On the other hand, the lawyer, an older and wiser man in the end, shows his dynamic...

Cited: 1. Chekhov, Anton. "The Bet." Conscious Reader. 11th ed. 2009. 411-416.
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