In "The Bet," what did the lawyer think about the bet after fifteen years?

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caroline-engle eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After just under fifteen years of solitary confinement, the lawyer in Anton Chekhov's "The Bet" is set to be released and collect two million from the banker the next day. The banker has experienced a lot of financial difficulties since agreeing to this bet with the lawyer, and is very concerned that he will have no money left when they lawyer is free and claims the two million the banker agreed to pay him. This causes the banker to contemplate killing the lawyer. When he goes to the lawyer's window to see how the lawyer is doing, the banker sees that the lawyer, who is only forty, looks "half dead." The lawyer is asleep at his table, so the banker enters his room and looks at the piece of paper that is in front of him. In it, he finds the lawyer plans to end his confinement a few hours before the agreed-upon time and does not want the banker's money. His reasoning is as follows:

And I despise your books, I despise wisdom and the blessings of this world. It is all worthless, fleeting, illusory, and deceptive, like a mirage. You may be proud, wise, and fine, but death will wipe you off the face of the earth as though you were no more than mice burrowing under the floor, and your posterity, your history, your immortal geniuses will burn or freeze together with the earthly globe.

You have lost your reason and taken the wrong path. You have taken lies for truth, and hideousness for beauty. You would marvel if, owing to strange events of some sorts, frogs and lizards suddenly grew on apple and orange trees instead of fruit, or if roses began to smell like a sweating horse; so I marvel at you who exchange heaven for earth. I don't want to understand you.

The lawyer rejects the banker's money because he wants to prove how much he despises the earthly priorities of people like the banker. He leaves the banker's property only hours before the bet would end, and the banker weeps, feels contempt for himself, and then locks away the lawyer's letter "to avoid unnecessary talk."