In the short story "The Bet" by Anton Chekhov, which character is the most sympathetic, the banker or the lawyer?
In Anton Chekhov's story "The Bet," it is the banker who is the most sympathetic. This is so because the story is told entirely from his point of view. The conversations and arguments leading up to making the bet, including all the lawyer's quoted words, are represented in a flashback in the banker's memory. The lawyer is a relatively minor character, since he spends most of his time in seclusion. The only hints we have about what is going on in the prisoner's mind have to come through the banker's reflections. We understand the banker's problems and fears very well, since we are locked in his consciousness. He has some bad qualities, but he has some sympathetic qualities as well. We appreciate the fact that he regrets making the bet and that he had tried to talk the lawyer out of going through with it. We can appreciate the fact that he is getting old and has been dreading the release date, when he will be obliged to give up everything he owns to pay off the bet. We can even understand why he might contemplate committing murder to get out of paying two million rubles--but we are pleased when it turns out that he won't have to. It is hard to sympathize with the lawyer because he has become a mystic as a result of solitude, meditation and study. We are pleased that he has found something better than money. This solves the banker's problems, but not at the expense of the lawyer. The banker will be punished by his bad conscience for the rest of his life, but we can understand that he is willing to accept that punishment as long as he can keep his two million rubles. We cannot say that the banker is a better man than the lawyer. Quite the reverse. He was planning to cheat the lawyer out of the money he rightfully owed him, and even planning murder. The lawyer is the better man, but we don't necessarily sympathize with the better man.
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