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"The Bet" by Anton Chekhov

A breakdown of story elements present in "The Bet"

Maryam Dharmajwala

on 13 October 2015

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Transcript of "The Bet" by Anton Chekhov

Characters: The Banker

Two million rubles Each man's value

The question of worth: Is the man's time worth more, or is 2 million rubles worth more?

Books the lawyer's change as a person

Over time, he reads more mature books concerning humanity's beliefs and faults.The more books the lawyer reads the more intelligent he gets, and the more understanding he has about society.

Gray hair and aged face Wisdom

Dark autumn night Death/Foreshadowing

Something that was once living is entering a new stage of life.

Characters: The Lawyer
Begins materialistic and greedy for fame and money
During imprisonment, changes and rejects anything mundane
Lawyer and banker are foils.
Banker is completely materialistic
Lawyer is completely non-materialistic
Both portrayed on extreme side
Both have favorable and negative traits
Works Cited
"Anton Chekhov Biography."
Televison Networks, 15 Apr. 2013. Web. 9 Oct. 2015.
Rocomara, Carol. "'Olga, My Doggie.'"
. The Guardian, 14 Jan. 2005. Web. 8 Oct. 2015.
Weather, Rayn. "Anton Chekhov."
The Classics, 19 Nov. 2014. Web. 9 Oct. 2015.
(Anton Chekhov)
Begins with intent to kill the lawyer
After reading the letter, he appears to care for the lawyer
However, he hides the letter
Embarrassed and selfish
He's stubborn.
He thinks he is going to win the bet
He needs to win.
Loses money from mistakes
Cares about money
When the time to free and reward the lawyer comes, the banker regrets his rash decisions.
He has no money left to give him,
If he does give the lawyer two million, then he will be broke and homeless.
Does not want pity, disgrace or embarrassment
Induces the banker to decide to kill the lawyer
The Banker
The Lawyer
Plot Diagram
"The Bet" by Anton Chekhov
Maryam Dharmajwala, Surya Gandikota,
Aly Hashim, Insha Momin, Abeeha Raza
Setting (present) - cold, dark autumn night, rainy and windy, November 1885
The banker has a flashback.
Party is going on.
November 1870
People are arguing whether death penalty is better or worse than life imprisonment.
The banker - protagonist; death
The lawyer - antagonist; imprisonment
Mood is foreboding.
Foreshadows that something bad will happen
Inciting Incident
The banker bets the lawyer 2 million rubles that he wouldn't stay in solitary confinement for 5 years.
The lawyer makes the deal worse and says he'll do 15 years instead of 5 years.
The banker stakes his millions.
The lawyer stakes his freedom.
Rising Action
Decided that the lawyer shall spend 15 years in solitary confinement
1st year:
lonely and depressed, piano, reads 'light' books
2nd year:
no piano, reads classics
5th year:
angry with self, crying, only eating and lying on bed, no books, writing
6th year:
studying languages, philosophy and history, happiness
10th year:
only read Gospel
11th-13th year:
theology, history of religion
Last 2 years:
many different books randomly
The lawyer will regain freedom the next night.
The banker has financial problems.
The banker concludes that he must kill the lawyer to be saved from bankrupcy and disgrace.
Does not want pity from lawyer
Introduces violence into the story
Shows that the banker is easily lured into performing violent acts
After this point, we are not able to look at the story from the point of view we were using before.
Falling Action
The banker leaves at 3AM to kill the lawyer
The banker sees the lawyer asleep and very weak and emaciated.
The banker wants to kill the lawyer, but he reads a letter he left first:
The lawyer has gained wisdom from books, but he despises those things because they are worthless, a mirage.
He believes one's material belongings will disappear with their death.
Renounces 2 million rubles
The banker kisses lawyer on head, and weeps the entire night
Who won the bet?
The lawyer forfeits.
The banker does not have to pay, but he feels defeated.
No one 'wins'
Is death penalty better or worse than imprisonment for life?
The lawyer is physically fragile, but he is wiser from imprisonment.
The lawyer will not make rash decisions for greed.
The banker will not reveal the letter to the public.
Embarrassed or cares for the lawyer?

The banker does not kill the lawyer.
The lawyer is seen escaping that night and disappears.
The banker locks up the letter in his fireproof safe.
The banker does not have to pay the lawyer.
The lawyer is not freed by the banker.

Figurative Language*
Thematic Questions
Imagery of earthly life
"'I have sung songs...I have climbed...I have seen the sun rise...I have watched...I have seen...I have flung myself...performed miracles... preached new religions...conquered whole kingdoms...'" (Chekhov 5).
Shows the lawyer's awareness and wisdom he possesses during his imprisonment

Simile of the lawyer's beliefs of the materialistic aspects of life
"'It [wisdom and the blessings of this world] is all worthless, fleeting, illusory, and deceptive, like a mirage'" (Chekhov 5).
Shows how the lawyer believes a person's history and accomplishments disappear when they die

Similie of the irrelevance of materialism in the face of death
"'...death will wipe you off the face of the earth as though you were no more than mice burrowing under the floor...'" (Chekhov 5).
Emphasizes lawyer's beliefs of irrelevance of materialism and hatred of human faults
How does the story show why humanity is driven to violence?
The story mainly portrays how the banker is driven to violence because of selfishness, greed, materialism, and vanity.
He does not want to lose two million rubles, so he attempts to kill the lawyer.
Also, does not want the public to chastise him for losing the bet, and he attempts to kill the lawyer so he can win unfairly.

Questions for thought:
Is death penalty better or worse than life imprisonment? Is someone killing you in a few minutes better or worse than someone drawing the life out of you?

If death is inevitable, what matters in life?
This leads to...what is the meaning of life?
1860 - 1904
Author, playwright, physician
Abusive and bankrupted father
Wrote stories to pay for studies due to financial hardship
Stories often contained lonely and dark characters
Portrayed realistic situations
Negativity was common
Diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1897
Wrote arguably best work
In a letter to his wife, Chekhov said, "You ask, 'What is life?' That is like asking, 'What is a carrot?' A carrot is a carrot, and nothing more is known about it."
Man vs. Self
Man vs. Nature
Man vs. Man
The Banker vs. The Lawyer
Hold opposing views on life imprisonment and death penalty
After the lawyer states his opinion on imprisonment, the banker strongly disagrees
Tells the lawyer that he will reward him two million rubles if he goes to prison for 15 years
Introduced again when the banker decides to kill the lawyer
Man vs. Self
The Lawyer vs. Self
The Lawyer vs. Nature
The Banker vs. Self
The lawyer is materialistic at beginning
Throughout years of imprsionment, the lawyer questions morals and ideas of life.
Realizes that being oblivious about reality and problems is useless
Realizes he would rather be imprisoned and educated than be as proud and wise as the banker
Thinks in a new, more educated and non-materialistic way
While the lawyer is imprisoned, he experiences a lack of:
human interaction.
can lead to depression
causes him to look much older than 40
gray hair
aged face
Full transcript