What role do the books play in the story "The Bet"?

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Books play a pivotal part in the story. When the young lawyer agrees, as part of his bet with the banker, to enter into a period (fifteen years) of solitary confinement, he does so on the understanding that he will be allowed access to as many books as he likes.

In the sixth year of his confinement, the lawyer begins to "zealously" study "languages, philosophy, and history." He reads voraciously, and over the next four years, "some six hundred volumes (are) procured at his request." The lawyer declares that the result of his reading is an "unearthly happiness."

In the tenth year the lawyer reads "nothing but the Gospel," and in the final two years of his confinement he reads...

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