What does the banker represent in "The Bet"?

In "The Bet," the banker represents greed and a corrupted society. By the end of the story, the lawyer, once very much a part of such society, now despises "worldly blessings and wisdom," wanting nothing to do with the banker and earthly desires.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At the beginning of "The Bet," the banker makes a bet with a young lawyer. Ultimately, the banker bets that the young man cannot endure fifteen years of voluntary imprisonment. The banker agrees to pay the lawyer fifteen million rubles if the lawyer can endure the fifteen years of imprisonment.

At the end of the story, the lawyer writes a letter in which he says that he will leave his prison cell just minutes before the fifteen-year period is due to expire, thus voluntarily forfeiting the bet. In the letter he explains that he has come to despise the banker's way of life—of humanity's way of life. He accuses the banker of being greedy for money, of living only for money and the accumulation of money. The lawyer says that the banker is "mad, and gone the wrong way" for living his life in this way. The lawyer also says that the banker, in choosing to live a life based on greed, has "bartered heaven for earth." The implication here is that the banker has prioritized earthly pleasures (purchased with money) over the heavenly afterlife that is given to those who can renounce those earthly pleasures.

At the end of his letter, the lawyer, addressing the banker directly, says that he is forfeiting the two million rubles as a sign of his "contempt for that by which you live." In other words, the lawyer is forfeiting the huge amount of money because he wants to be nothing like the banker and the rest of the world for which he now has so much contempt for.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial