Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Bet’ is a short story that starts out as a conversation between a few people at a dinner, which then turns to an argument between two young and enthusiastic people. The banker and lawyer disagree on the form of punishments, capital and life imprisonment. The banker says capital punishment is more humane than life imprisonment, the lawyer disagrees. Their argument takes a turn when the banker bets two million that the lawyer cannot go through with imprisonment. The lawyer agrees to the bet.
The banker, fifteen years ago hosts a dinner where the conversation takes place. He claimed to have a lot of money and told the lawyer that two millions less wouldn’t bother him while the lawyer would be losing his freedom, and the thought that he can regain his freedom anytime would make it harder for him.
The lawyer was imprisoned in the banker’s garden house in complete solitude. The rules were that no visitors, letters or newspapers were allowed. However, he could write letters, and he was permitted to read books, allowed a musical instrument, wine, and cigarettes. The only communication with the outside world for him would be through a small window through which he could write notes and ask for things.
The first year was tough on the lawyer, he refused to drink wine as wine would lead to desire and according to him desire is a man’s worst enemy. Also he didn’t want to smoke as he’d be polluting the little space he was trapped inside. He mainly read light books and played the piano though he was depressed. By the second year he left music and turned toward literature. For the next four years he studied languages, philosophy, history and theology.
In the passing years, the banker’s wealth keeps declining and in the end he is left rubbles and has debts. The fifteen year deadline finishes in a day’s time and the banker doesn’t have money to pay to the lawyer, if he does he would go bankrupt. The banker decides to ill the lawyer so he wouldn’t have to pay him any money and he could put the blame on the watchman. When he enters the room, he sees an emaciated man, asleep at his table. Beside him was kept a note, in the note the lawyer had written that he has no wish to take the two million as his desire for money no longer existed, he stated that he despises everything in human life. The lawyer was going to leave five hours before the bet was over, thus forfeiting the bet.
With this scenario as the end, it comes to notice that both the characters had an interchange in personality, the banker now was in desire of money while the lawyer didn’t care about the money. The baker realises that the bet actually proved no point, it didn’t prove whether capital punishment is better or worst.
The irony of the story was that the lawyer had reached victory but now his desire for it no longer existed so he purposely lost the bet. His behaviour in the end was unpredictable.