What were the occupations of the two men in "The Bet"?

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In Chekhov's story "The Bet," the man who initiates the bet is a banker. He tells the other man: "I'll bet you two million you wouldn't stay in solitary confinement for five years." The other opts for fifteen years in a show of bravado. The story opens when the fifteen-year period of the other man's confinement is almost up, and the banker is described as "the old banker," meaning that he must have been in fairly late middle age when he made the bet. Chekhov's choice of this character's occupation was natural because any man who could risk losing two million rubles on such a bet would have to be wealthy.

Chekhov introduces the other man by giving his age and occupation:

Among the guests was a young lawyer, a young man of five-and-twenty.

It is appropriate that this man should be young and should be a lawyer. If he were not young, he wouldn't be likely to want to spend fifteen-years in confinement. The fact that he is a lawyer suggests that he feels secure about the terms of the bet. In other words, he knows it is legally enforceable if he wins. It was made in front of a large number of distinguished witnesses. It is not exactly a gambling debt but could be construed as a verbal contract. If the lawyer remains in solitary confinement for fifteen years, the banker will pay him two million rubles. The banker should know that the lawyer is capable of pursuing him vigorously if he refuses to pay. And furthermore, the banker would be disgraced for reneging because the many witnesses, some of whom were journalists, would spread the story all over Russia.

 

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