The story 'Bet' was written by Chekhov in 1888, six years before his death. Anton Pavlovich already knew that he had only a little time left to live, and his last works had the character of rethinking life, summing it up. 'Bet' in its content can be attributed to the story-parable - a genre unusual for Chekhov.
In the introduction, the main character, an old banker, recalls the events of fifteen years ago: a party, conversations of 'smart and interesting' people, a dispute over life imprisonment.
The banker is described by the author as a nervous, quick-tempered person. He seriously accepted the offer of one of the guests for fifteen years to remain in solitary confinement and get two million for it. "I lost my temper", "I hit my fist on the table", "shouted" - so the main character behaved when making a bet. Chekhov calls him 'the master banker': yes, he is the master of the house where the evening is held, but at the same time, there is a hint in this name that the hero thinks himself all-powerful, having the right to dispose of someone else's life.
"Wild, senseless betting" took place - this is the start of the action. And the hero gives him the same assessment fifteen years later: "nonsense," "nonsense," "whim of a well-fed person." And as opposed to these words - a description of the ordeals of the one who was voluntarily imprisoned. Not to see or hear people, not to go out into the sunlight ... The prisoner first suffers from loneliness, then finds solace in wine, music, and books, then comes the renunciation of wine and secular works, return to them, appeal to religion ... The living soul tries to save itself, as the author describes, as if eagerly clutching at one piece of the ship, then after another.
And then again the opposition: a description of the life of a banker, empty, vain. For the same fifteen years, he was almost devastated because of speculation, the stock market game, and, once again, Chekhov emphasizes the fervor that even years had not smoothed over. Still, the 'arrogant, proud rich man' has turned into a 'trembling old man.'
From the outcome of the bet and the payment of two million depends on its continued existence. And the main character again comes in the wake of his fervor: decides to kill a voluntary captive. The night on the eve of the last day of imprisonment, the banker sneaks into the outhouse, finds the prisoner asleep - the culmination of the action! But the one who needs to be killed, and so does not look like a living: exhausted, pale, thin. "A pitiful man," the banker thinks of him, but in these words, there is no pity — only anger at the prisoner who must take his money tomorrow. But the letter on the table turns the soul of the protagonist.
In it is a renunciation of earthly blessings and spiritual blessings, contempt for human existence and for people. During his imprisonment, the prisoner understood something about life that forever separated him from his own kind. To prove his contempt, he, a few hours before his release and winnings, refuses the money and is going to leave before the appointed time. The banker is shocked, he cries, kisses a sleeping strange man ... His recent thoughts of murder cause contempt for himself. Prisoner's deed is impossible to understand ...
The story ends with the fact that the banker closes the sheet with the abdication in the fireproof cabinet. And behind this seems a similar way of rethinking life, which the protagonist will follow after those who have passed it because of a ridiculous whim. Everyone has his own end of life, but no one will avoid suffering on his way to it.