In "The Bet," why does the narrator call the bet "wild" and "senseless"?

Expert Answers info

William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write5,416 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

A lively discussion arose. The banker, who was younger and more nervous in those days, was suddenly carried away by excitement; he struck the table with his fist and shouted at the young man:

     "It's not true! I'll bet you two million you wouldn't stay in solitary confinement for five years."

     "If you mean that in earnest," said the young man, "I'll take the bet, but I would stay not five but fifteen years."

     "Fifteen? Done!" cried the banker. "Gentlemen, I stake two million!"

     "Agreed! You stake your millions and I stake my freedom!" said the young man.

     And this wild, senseless bet was carried out!

Anton Chekhov had an idea he wanted to develop into a short story. A man bets another that he can spend fifteen years in solitary confinement. He will receive a fortune if he can do it. Chekhov's biggest problem was "selling" this concept to the reader. Would anyone really make such a bet? Would anyone agree to spend fifteen years in solitary confinement? And, if so, would anyone agree to pay him two million rubles for doing so?

All of the opening exposition is presented as a flashback in the banker's mind as he is remembering how the bet came to be made. This is all mainly to persuade the reader that it was not only possible but that it was actually carried out. The words "wild" and "senseless" can be understood to be part of the banker's recollection and not of the anonymous narrator. What Chekhov is doing is convincing the reader that the preposterous bet was really made by having the viewpoint character himself admit that it was "wild" and "senseless." The banker agrees with the feelings of the reader. This is not the only place in the story where the banker agrees with the reader that the bet was improbable, bizarre, dangerous, perhaps even...

(The entire section contains 643 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial