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In order to determine the pieces of the story line for any story, you must be able to identify the main conflict. In this story, the conflict is between the lawyer and the banker. It is, the bet they make concerning the more humane choice: capital punishment or life imprisonment. In order to settle the bet, the lawyer agrees to voluntary imprisonment for 15 years. The questions the reader should be asking are: "Who will win? Will the lawyer last the full 15 years? What will happen as a result?" These questions lead to the understanding of the rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
The rising action of a story is the events and complications that lead to the climax. In this story, it is the details of the lawyers imprisonment. Notice how things start off relatively easy (and in fact, seem positive). As the story progresses however, the lawyer gets mentally and physically weaker. This story actually has an anti-climax, which is when the banker (who has lost all of his money in the 15 years) decides he will kill his prisoner in order to avoid serious debt. The actual climax, however, is when the banker finds the lawyer in his cell with a note before him, announcing his intentions to leave just before his imprisonment is scheduled to end, therefore forfeiting his winning of the bet.
The falling action includes the banker hiding the note in a safe, his hatred of himself, and the empty prison cell the next morning. The resolution to the actual conflict in this story is somewhat left to the reader. Who actually won? It turns out the lawyer lasted the full fifteen years (save 5 minutes), but in the end decides it would have been better to die than to endure it. The banker is released from the debt he should owe the lawyer, but is left with a sense of guilt, defeat, and self-hatred. So who really won?
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