Justify the title of the story 'The Bet'?

Expert Answers info

William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write5,416 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Chekhov had to justify the bet itself. It seems like an implausible bet that any man would undertake to spend fifteen years in solitary confinement. But Chekhov had the idea and he must have liked it. He knew he had to make the reader believe the whole incident really occurred. So he attacked the problem head-on of making his premise believable. He started right with the title. He established that the two bettors, the banker and the lawyer, made the bet in front of a group of important men. It would be hard for either of them to back out. Chekhov very conspicuously does not mention liquor. But at such a gathering of men there must have been a lot of drinking being done--vodka before and after the meal and wine with the food. This is the sort of bet a couple of men might make while they were drunk. But Chekhov wants to assure the reader that the bet was made in earnest and that neither of the men could call it off on the grounds that they had been drinking too much. So the author has the banker speak to the lawyer in private when both characters are apparently clear-headed.

"Think better of it, young man, while there is still time. To me two million is a trifle, but you are losing three or four of the best years of your life. I say three or four, because you won't stay longer. Don't forget either, you unhappy man, that voluntary confinement is a great deal harder to bear than compulsory. The thought that you have the right to step out in liberty at any moment will poison your whole existence in prison. I am sorry for you."

The banker doesn't like the bet. He is sorry he made it. He would like to call it off, but he prefers to try to get the lawyer to change his mind. What the banker says to him in private is an clear but guarded invitation to call off the bet. The banker is clearly indicating that he will be glad to do so if the younger man wishes. There is nothing in it for the banker. He doesn't like the idea of keeping someone a prisoner. Who would? Furthermore, the banker will be at the expense of providing everything his prisoner asks for, including some six hundred books, many of which are very hard to find. 

Chekhov succeeds in convincing the reader that this preposterous bet was actually honored by both parties for fifteen long years. His title for the story, "The Bet ," shows that he knew his biggest problem was with...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 850 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2006

write16,149 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial