In Chekhov's "The Bet," who in your opinion won the bet between the banker and the lawyer?
This is an interesting question. There are several ways of looking at the outcome. It might be said that neither of the men actually won or lost the bet, because the lawyer didn't collect the two million rubles and the banker didn't lose the two million rubles. Morally speaking, however, it would appear that the lawyer won the bet and the lawyer decided to let the banker "off the hook" by walking out the door five hours before the deadline.
The banker seems to be acknowledging that he lost the bet by his thoughts and behavior on the night before the term of imprisonment expired. He sneaks into the prisoner's room for the first time in fifteen years with the intention of murdering him after keeping him in solitary confinement for all that time. The banker himself would acknowledge that he had lost the bet, and the lawyer would probably assert that he had won it, although he disdained to collect the money.
The bet itself is hard to understand. Initially the two men were arguing about the relative cruelty of capital punishment versus life imprisonment. This is the pertinent dialogue.
"The death sentence and the life sentence are equally immoral, but if I had to choose between the death penalty and imprisonment for life, I would certainly choose the second. To live anyhow is better than not at all."
A lively discussion arose. The banker, who was younger and more nervous in those days, was suddenly carried away by excitement; he struck the table with his fist and shouted at the young man.
"It's not true! I'll bet you two million you wouldn't stay in solitary confinement for five years."
"If you mean that in earnest," said the young man, "I'll take the bet, but I would stay not five but fifteen...
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In my opinion the lawyer won the bet, by abandoning the money just a few hours before the end of the bet. Through his readings he experienced the world and could clearly see the weakness of mankind. In fact, the lawyer purposefully lost the bet and escaped from the confinement as he began to despise wordly possessions.
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