Student Question

In "The Bet" by Anton Chekov, what does the lawyer mean by "The geniuses of all ages and of all lands speak different languages, but the same flame burns in them all"?

Quick answer:

In "The Bet," the lawyer means that despite differences in languages, the universal truths and curiosity for knowledge unite the geniuses of all ages and cultures. Through his study of various languages and seminal works, he recognizes that all humans, regardless of race or ethnicity, seek understanding of life's fundamental questions.

Expert Answers

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Sometime during the second half of the lawyer's sixth year of imprisonment, he began to voraciously study multiple languages.  Over the next four years, the lawyer ordered and consumed around six hundred volumes of various texts across multiple languages.  By that time, ten years of imprisonment had occurred, and the lawyer could claim fluency in six languages.  

Because of his new language abilities, he was able to study the great works of many cultures and time periods in their original language.  After doing so he wrote, 

"The geniuses of all ages and of all lands speak different languages, but the same flame burns in them all." 

What the quote means is that despite wide gaps in time, culture, and language, the same universal truths still are present.  Regardless of race or ethnicity, humans still hunger for and seek greater learning and knowledge.  They all still ask the same basic questions about the meaning of life, truth, and happiness.  In general, the flame that burns is the flame of curiosity.  

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