Why did the banker not kill the lawyer?

In "The Bet," the banker does not kill the lawyer, because he reads a letter where the lawyer outlines his plan to leave confinement minutes before the fifteen-year time limit expires. In doing so, he will willingly forfeit the millions which the banker would otherwise have to pay him. No longer facing financial ruin, the banker doesn't follow through with his plan to murder the lawyer.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The banker is so confident that the lawyer will not remain in solitary confinement for fifteen years that he doesn't hesitate to wager two million rubles in their bet. At the time of the bet, he also has a significant amount of money, and the amount of the bet doesn't seem to faze him. His financial situation changes quite drastically over the fifteen-year span, however. He makes numerous risky financial decisions on the stock exchange, and he loses his once great fortune. In fact, if he is forced to pay out the two million rubles, he will be "ruined." This would cause him great public embarrassment, so he instead decides to kill the lawyer to save himself from public "disgrace."

The banker quietly enters the lawyer's chamber of confinement on the night before the bet will end. He is amazed by how still and quiet the lawyer is, never moving as the banker enters his room. He sits at a table with his head bent, and the banker sees a letter that the lawyer has been writing.

The letter condemns humanity as a whole. The lawyer asserts that mankind has gone "mad" and accepts "falsehood for truth and ugliness for beauty." In order to prove how little he values society's mores, the lawyer plans to leave his chamber five minutes before the entire fifteen years is complete. He thus plans to forfeit the money because he no longer finds any sense of worth in material possessions.

The banker kisses the lawyer's head and leaves without killing him. He no longer has to do so, because he trusts that the lawyer will willingly give up the bet, and the banker will thus be able to keep his money. The lawyer keeps his word and flees his chamber just before he would have acquired the millions.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial