In the story The Bet by Anton Chekhov, an older and privileged banker is having a lively discussion in his home. The topic of discussion is the death penalty versus incarceration for life. The banker is loud and boisterous. A young man is listening and soon argues that being imprisoned for life would be better than death although both of the actions deprived a man of his life and were immoral.
The banker, full of himself, makes a bold bet. He states that he would give the man two million dollars if the man could live in solitary confinement for five years. The young man decides to take the bet.
Main Events for the Banker:
- Makes the bet before thinking about it, staking his millions on the bet
- Realizes his bet will prove nothing in the capital punishment versus life in prison debate
- Loses his fortune in stock speculations
- Contemplates killing the young man in desperation because in a day he will lose the bet, but learns by letter that the man, now 40, has chosen to leave before the end of the bet on purpose because he does not care about the banker's money
- Banker despises his actions and hides the letter
Main Events for the Young Man:
- Enters discussion with the banker, and takes the bet to remain in solitary confinement
- Increases the time from five to fifteen years
- Remains in the banker's lodge in solitary confinement
- Absorbs years of learning from books, mentally transitioning as he goes through stages evident by the materials he reads
- Ends the bet at the last minute, on purpose, by sharing a letter expressing that he had desired solitary confinement and all of the books had led to him having contempt for man, and leaving out a window early
Both men have undergone changes since the initial bet. The banker has gambled away his wealth through stock market speculation and become a person desperate enough to contemplate killing a man, despising who he has become.
The young man has read and undergone transitions as he learned languages, religion, and many other things about mankind through books. He has learned that money is something that is connected to the thing that he abhors, man's quest for success.