How does "The Bet" by Anton Chekhov show true happiness is not found in material possessions or in knowledge and learning?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Bet" illustrates those two concepts through the characters of the lawyer and the banker. When the story begins, the banker is wealthy beyond imagination. That is why he can place such an enormous bet with little worry about paying out if he loses. By the end of the story, though, the banker has lost everything. Despite all of the money he had, the banker was unable to achieve happiness through having money and owning things. I could argue the banker was sad and depressed because he was about to lose everything else he had. The lawyer was about to win the bet, and the idea of losing the rest of his fortune made the banker consider murder. The lawyer loses the bet on purpose, though, and the banker gets to keep his money; however, he wasn't happy because of it. He realized what a horrible person he became in the pursuit of keeping his money and material possessions.  

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 lawyer devoted fifteen years of his life to learning and better educating himself. Instead of this knowledge making him a wise sage of sorts, this vast amount of information led him to become a bitter and jaded man. He was sickened by the actions of his fellow men, and the story ends with him despising everything he had learned because it showed him how rotten humanity is, saying,

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.

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The Bet

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