The Bet Questions and Answers
by Anton Chekhov

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The Bet Summary

In "The Bet," who won the bet and who won the argument?

Between the Lawyer and the Banker.

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marilynn07 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I beg to differ.

I do think that the above answers are just as right as the one I am about to offer. But, I see it as though the banker actually was right. The young lawyer grew old far quicker than he would have if he had had the company of other people.

15 years in solitary confinement drove him to despise the 2 millions he was to be awarded if he lasted out the terms of the confinement.  His time in solitary drove him to despise human thinking, philosophy and all things "civilized".

The banker was right in that it was a death by degrees. The young lawyer entered his confinement young and energetic and left old and bitter at 40 years of age.

While morally, the young lawyer won the bet as he could have easily stayed another 5 hours, he lost the bet because he proved the banker right in that it was inhumane to be in solitary confinement for 15 years.


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Edith Sykes eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think that the lawyer won the bet, he remained in the prison, as he said he would.  He accomplished his end of the bargain, while the banker, was left for 15 years to prepare to pay the money, and ends up in financial trouble, trying to find a way out of the bet.

In the fifteen years of confinement, the lawyer was left almost completely alone, except for the many books that he reads.  Through this process, he becomes wise and deeply spiritual about life.  He rejects material possessions, thereby refusing to take the money from the banker.

Instead of confinement stealing a man's life, the lawyer proved that confinement enriched a life, his own.

The banker has squandered his time, learning nothing about the value of life. He has not grown richer, either materially or spiritually.  He is guilty, not only of being pampered in his life, but also for treating the lawyer the way he did.  The banker was very harsh to the prisoner.  There was a lesson for both of the characters to learn, but unfortunately, the banker keeps the lawyer at a distance and doesn't treat him properly, and misses an opportunity to learn from him. The banker remains shallow and unenlightened.  

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luannw eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The lawyer who was shut away for fifteen years won the bet in the moral sense.  In his letter to the banker, he states that though it was difficult at first to endure the solitary confinement, after a few years, he began to read in earnest.  His reading opened his mind and gave him wisdom.  He was able to appreciate much of the world without actually experiencing it because he read.  As his wisdom increased he began to see the weaknesses of mankind as a whole and he came to despise those weaknesses and all of mankind.  Because of that wisdom and his hatred of people's general faults, material possessions, and what he considered the false quality of the world, he purposely lost the bet by leaving five hours before the end of the agreed upon time, thus renouncing the money he was supposed to win.  The banker won only in the sense that he did not lose money, but he lost so much more of himself.  He nearly killed the lawyer in his desire to avoid losing his money.  After the lawyer escaped, the banker did not even have the moral nature to let others know why the lawyer escaped.  He took the letter the lawyer wrote explaining why he did what he did and locked it away before anyone could see it.

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vkhan | Student

Interesting arguements, however I have to say, that the banker won. This isn't a question about moral at all, sure the lawyer stayed for 15 years, however, look at the begining of the story. The lawyer believed in life, he was joyful in a way. He took the bet for the money, the more wisdom he acquired, the more he started hating life, in the end, he became religious thinking that this life means nothing and that the afterlife means everything. He believes in the afterlife and not in life anymore. If a bet, makes you change and makes you become less then what you were or breaks your beliefs, then your opponent won.

undead24 | Student

I would say the lawyer one the argument because he proved that he can last in the solitary room for 15 years and care less about the money because he realized the money controled people and he did not wanna be apart of that he just wanted to be in his own little world being his own leader doing watever the hell he wants to do...Itz kind of Ironic how at first the banker tells the lawyer the bet is for five years in solitary confinement and the lawyer decided to take the stakes higher and go for fifteen years...In the end nobody really proved anything

fatima123 | Student

i think that the lawyer won...