The Bet Questions and Answers
by Anton Chekhov

The Bet book cover
Start Your Free Trial

In the short story "The Bet," what lessons do the banker and the lawyer learn?  

Expert Answers info

mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2006

write16,150 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

In Chekhov's "The Bet," the banker and the lawyer both learn the futility of their wager, as they have found that life and its conditions differ greatly from their more youthful perceptions.

The lawyer learns that his sweeping statement that life on any terms is better than death is not true. In his isolation, he finds that there is little meaning to all the philosophy and languages he learns, writing, "It is all worthless, fleeting, illusory, deceptive, like a mirage." Later in the letter in which he forfeits his bet, the lawyer declares that everything is empty and illusory. Without explicitly stating it, the lawyer understands that little has meaning unless it is shared with others. His bet has been that of a proud, naive young man, but now he knows the purpose for the company of others.

The banker has lost much of his arrogance because his financial state finds his pride greatly diminished from that of fifteen years ago when he made the bet. Now, having secretly read the lawyer's letter, he realizes the arrogance of his wager as well as the selfish cruelty of his plan to murder the lawyer in order to save himself from financial ruin in paying for his having lost the bet. He decides to hide the lawyer's letter in which the younger man rejects the money in order to demonstrate his revulsion for what he terms grotesque contemporary values:

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 I now despise.

The banker is repulsed by his own earlier motives to murder the lawyer in order to save himself from financial ruin. Now, he feels "a great contempt for himself" for what the lawyer has endured and for his own overriding avarice.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Edith Sykes eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2007

write1,721 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

During his 15 year confinement the lawyer learns that money, material possessions have no long term value.  He had decided to forfeit the money and leave confinement 5 minutes before his time was up.  He has come to appreciate the real valuable aspects of life.  In escaping his confinement, he actually saves his life, since the banker has planned to kill him so as not to pay the money he can no longer afford.

The banker having gone into debt over the years seems to have become a slave to money.  He was willing to commit murder to save himself from having to pay the money.  The banker has lost his connection with humanity over the course of the bet, now only placing value on money.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

usagolsem | Student

The lawyer learned that wine, gambling, money and betting turn out nothing these are merely materialistic not permanent and can not make a good morality. The banker learned that pride, money ang gambling make a man an immoral person to be regretted soon enough. Nothing earthly can last long except the real soul that is sinless eternally.

sara-e | Student

The Lawyer has learned that, "Being alive is not a sign that one is living"