What was the Banker's reaction after reading the letter?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The banker experiences a whole range of emotions after reading the letter his prisoner is leaving for him in which he relinquishes the two million rubles which would be his if he remained in solitary confinement until the deadline the next morning. For one thing, the banker kisses the man on the head.

When the banker had read this he laid the page on the table, kissed the strange man on the head, and went out of the lodge, weeping. At no other time, even when he had lost heavily on the Stock Exchange, had he felt so great a contempt for himself. When he got home he lay on his bed, but his tears and emotion kept him for hours from sleeping.

The banker cannot understand what the lawyer has learned in fifteen years of solitary study and meditation, but he feels gratitude for being allowed to keep his money even while feeling deeply ashamed of himself for planning to commit dastardly crimes in order to keep it. He was planning to murder his prisoner to get out of paying the bet, and then he was planning to allow one of his servants to be convicted of the crime and sent to Siberia. The prisoner, though unwittingly, has not only given the banker a gift of two million rubles but has spared him the dreaded necessity of committing a cowardly murder.

The banker's reaction to the letter proves that every word of it is true, including these:

"You have lost your reason and taken the wrong path. You have taken lies for truth, and hideousness for beauty. 

He is thoroughly ashamed of himself. He has devoted his life to making and spending money, and now that he is old he realizes that his materialism has never made him happy and never will. He knows he is contemptible. Nevertheless, he is vastly relieved to be able to keep his big home, his money, his servants, his costly possessions, and all his luxuries. He locks the lawyer's letter in a fireproof safe to serve as evidence that he had won the bet, if any question should arise in the future.

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