The Bet Questions and Answers
by Anton Chekhov

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What happens to the lawyer in the short story " The Bet "?

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Wealthy and confident at the time of the original wager, during the fifteen-year term of the bet between him and the young man, the banker loses much of his fortune and finds himself in a quandary as to how he will pay the wager if he loses.

It seems that the young lawyer, who has lived an isolated life under his voluntary confinement, is near the end of his term and will collect on the bet he has made with the banker that he can live alone and not suffer consequences. However, this lawyer, who is young no more, has moved from self-indulgence to a disciplined study of the great minds, and, then, back to some form of escapism. For, without human contact there is no direction to his life, and he can find no meaning since meaning truly depends upon sharing with others. Indeed, his examination through readings of all human possibilities is without real meaning except he be involved in human relationships. 

So, while the banker worries about how he will pay the wager as it seems he will lose, the lawyer understands that it is he who has truly lost because he has been denied human communication all these years. All his learning is worthless without anyone with whom to share it. In this state of mind, the lawyer writes a letter declaring that all is but mere vanity, emptiness, and illusion. Nothing endures except through others. He declares that he will leave five minutes before the wager ends; his self-contempt is too great to see the bet through to completion. While the banker, too, feels self-contempt, he safeguards the lawyer's letter because he desires evidence and because he may not trust the lawyer's renunciation.

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