What is the theme of "The Bet" by Anton Chekhov?
The banker is trying to prove that capital punishment is more humane than imprisonment for life. The lawyer is trying to prove that even solitary confinement is preferable to capital punishment. Naturally there has to be a large sum of money involved or else the lawyer would not consent to being kept in solitary confinement for fifteen years. The banker is so convinced that he is right that he doesn't expect the lawyer to last in his confinement for more than a few years, so the banker doesn't expect to lose anything except the expense of providing for the prisoner's needs. The argument did not initially involve solitary confinement. The banker only maintained that life in prison was more cruel than execution. But somehow the bet got around to solitary confinement versus execution. This must have been because Chekhov saw that he had no way of dramatizing a situation in which the banker could keep the lawyer locked up with a lot of other men in a maximum-security prison. The banker could afford to provide a sort of prison for one man but he had to be kept in solitary confinement. However, the condition of solitary confinement was ameliorated by the fact that, after all, the lawyer did not have to spend his entire life in a prison but only fifteen years of his life. Furthermore, the banker provided generously for his prisoner. He even offered to give him wine with his meals. The lawyer was probably smart to refuse the wine because he could have become a hopeless alcoholic during his confinement. He might have stayed drunk all the time just to make his imprisonment more endurable. What kind of a prison provides wine for the prisoners? The lawyer was undoubtedly getting gourmet meals too, as well as all the books he wanted to read. So Chekhov added these little nuances to the bet in order to make up for the facts that he could not show the lawyer living out his entire life in a prison with the company of other men. The banker and the lawyer must have been different types of men. The banker must have been an extrovert because he thought solitary confinement was unendurable. The lawyer, on the other hand, must have been an introvert who had what are usually called "inner resources." The banker loves money...
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the themes are :
1. Both greed and solitude (state of being alone) can destroy human life.
2. Intellectual (knowledge) gain and wisdom are set against materialism (money)
3. freedom is priceless and precious