Who are the characters in the short story "The Bet" by Anton Chekhov?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The story has four characters: a party guest, a watchman, a lawyer, and a banker. The lawyer and the banker are the two main characters.

At a party, the guests are discussing which is worse: the death penalty or life in prison. One partygoer is given a few lines of dialogue:

"They're both equally immoral," remarked one of the guests, "because their purpose is the same, to take away life. The State is not God. It has no right to take away that which it cannot give back, if it should so desire."

As a result of this discussion, a young lawyer and a banker make a bet that the lawyer can't survive fifteen years in prison. If he does, the banker will give him two million roubles.

The lawyer is imprisoned under good terms—he is in solitary confinement but lives in the banker's house with plenty of food, wine, music, and books. The banker tells him it will be especially hard on him to be imprisoned because it is voluntary and he can leave at anytime.

The lawyer, who begins happy and hopeful, develops a contempt for humankind in his imprisoned state and a contempt for the two million roubles. He leaves his prison five minutes before his time is up, to show his disdain for the money. The banker, who has become increasingly anxious to preserve his funds, is both relieved and filled with self-contempt.

A watchman tells the banker at the end that the lawyer has left early.

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marilynn07 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There are only 2 characters in this story: A banker and a young lawyer.

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