In Anton Chekhov's short story "The Bet," how has the banker's situation changed at the end of the fifteen years?

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The banker's financial situation has changed drastically in the fifteen years since he first made the extravagant bet with the lawyer. His wealth was secure at the time of his wager, but now that the bet is almost over, he stands to become bankrupt if he must pay the two...

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The banker's financial situation has changed drastically in the fifteen years since he first made the extravagant bet with the lawyer. His wealth was secure at the time of his wager, but now that the bet is almost over, he stands to become bankrupt if he must pay the two million.

Now old, the banker reflects upon the "wild, senseless bet" that has cost the young lawyer fifteen years. "On my part, it was the caprice of a pampered man, and on his part, simple greed for money," he thinks to himself. Worried about his possible ruin, the banker considers murdering the lawyer and letting the watchman be blamed so that he can save himself from bankruptcy. As it turns out, however, the lawyer walks out of his cell five minutes before his sentence ends.

What no one else knows, though, is that before the end of the bet, the banker went to the lodge where the prisoner had been confined. When he entered, he found a sleeping man, unrecognizable as the lawyer because he had aged well past what a man of forty should. When the old banker saw that the prisoner had written on a sheet of paper, he took the page from the table and read it—since the prisoner was unaware of his presence. On the paper, the lawyer had written a long letter recounting what he read and learned during all the years of his confinement. Then, at the end of this letter, the lawyer addressed his readers:

"You have lost your reason and taken the wrong path. You have taken lies for truth and hideousness for beauty.... To prove to you in action how I despise all that you live by, I renounce the two million of which I once dreamed as of paradise and which now I despise."

The banker replaced the letter and departed, feeling contempt for himself. But when the watchman runs to him the next day, saying that the prisoner has fled, the banker rushes to the lodge to verify that the lawyer is gone. Then, "to avoid unnecessary talk," he takes the letter that the lawyer has written and locks it in his safe.

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As the title might suggest, Anton Chekhov's "The Bet" follows the story of a bet made after an argument over capital punishment and life imprisonment. Two guests at a party--a banker and a lawyer--debate this, with the banker believing that capital punishment is more humane and wagering two million rubles that the lawyer could not deal with a life of being locked up. The lawyer agrees to voluntarily serve fifteen years in captivity in the banker's garden house; if he can do so, he will win the two million rubles. 

The banker's situation has changed dramatically at the conclusion of the fifteen years, however, and he is now riddled with debt and incapable of paying out the two million rubles without completely bankrupting himself. Fortunately for the banker's account (although not so much for his guilty conscience), the lawyer has come to despise human life during his imprisonment and forfeits the bet by leaving just shy of the date he was allowed to depart. 

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Chekhov's famous story "The Bet" is beautifully crafted. It begins close to the climax and then provides necessary exposition in a flashback. The banker, from whose point of view the story is told, bet a young lawyer that he could not stand to be kept in solitary confinement for fifteen years. At the time they made the rash bet the banker was a prosperous man; he had suffered some financial reverses over those fifteen years, however, and now he was faced with the ruinous prospect of having to pay his prisoner the large sum of two million rubles, because the scholarly, self-sufficient man had managed to endure the fifteen years of solitary confinement. The banker decided that his only recourse was to murder his captive but was unexpectedly saved from having to commit such a dastardly crime by the lawyer's voluntary relinquishment of the money.

 

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