In "The Bet" by Anton Chekhov, why does the banker call the bet "cursed"?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The banker regards the bet as "cursed" because it seems to have brought him nothing but bad luck. Since making the bet with the young lawyer, the banker's fortunes have taken a serious turn for the worse. As the terms of the bet draw to a close, the banker is mired in serious debt. If the young lawyer holds out and wins the two million rubles, the banker will be utterly ruined—not just financially, but also in terms of his reputation.

No wonder, then, that the banker gets so desperate when it seems like the lawyer's going to win the bet after all. He heads off to the garden house on his estate where the lawyer has been staying in solitary confinement for the past fifteen years, intent on killing the lawyer before he can win the bet. Fortunately for the banker, he doesn't have to resort to such drastic measures; on the desk in front of the sleeping lawyer is a note in which the lawyer states his intention to concede the bet five minutes before it's due to expire. Perhaps the bet was cursed after all—just not for the banker.

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kathik eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In "The Bet" by Anton Chekhov, the banker calls the bet "cursed" because when he originally made the bet with the lawyer, he was extremely wealthy, and now he no longer is. He had millions of dollars fifteen years ago when he and the lawyer bet two million dollars, and that two million was nothing to him. However, during the ensuing years, the banker has spent frivolously, made bad investments, and lost money due to poor decision making. If he pays the lawyer two million dollars, he will be bankrupt because he has little left from his original large fortune. He never even considered the possibility that he might lose his money when he first made the bet, and now that the reality of the bet is upon him, and the lawyer has held up his end of it, the banker feels that the bet is cursed. It will surely be the end of his wealth.

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