In the story "The Bet," why do the lawyer and the banker make the bet?

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This is perhaps the hardest question to try to answer about Chekhov's story. The bet between these two men seems preposterous. The lawyer at least has something to gain if he can tolerate solitary confinement for fifteen years. But the banker has nothing to gain. He is putting up two million rubles for nothing. The only explanation for his behavior is that he feels positive that the lawyer will not be able to stick it out. In other words, the banker does not feel he is really risking anything. He thinks the lawyer is taking all the risk because the younger man will not be able to stand solitary confinement for more than a few years. The banker actually tries to talk the lawyer out of the bet.

"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...

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