Analysis of “The Bet” by Anton Chekhov
“The Bet” is a short story that explores a moral theme regarding the value of human life. 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 of them is the banker, who refuses to face his own morality and the other is the lawyer (prisoner) who actually faces his own morality, but falls into despair because he is so disconnected from the outside world, even after gaining so much knowledge. These two characters may thrive on change, but they both alter their own human values in great ways.
The banker, a spoiled and pampered man, is very nervous and gets himself 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.” Chekhov shows the reader that this not the impulsiveness of youth since he describes it as excitability, which he could not get over even in advancing years. Later in the story, Chekhov paints the portrait of a cowardly man who lacks the courage to endure reality. One day before the lawyer is to be granted his freedom, the banker becomes irritated and anxious, “The only escape from bankruptcy and disgrace–is that the man should die.” 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 self-values have reached their all time low.
On the other hand, the lawyer, an older and wiser man, shows his dynamic characteristics as he changes dramatically in the course of the 15 year bet. The lawyer’s character completely transforms from being an arrogant, young man, in to a feeble, cynical, yet more intelligent man.