Student Question

What is the final outcome of "The Bet" by Chekhov?

Quick answer:

The final outcome of the story "The Bet" by Anton Chekhov is that the lawyer intentionally leaves moments before the time limit for his confinement expires, denouncing society's "worldly" desires. The banker hides the lawyer's letter, preserving his own public image.

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The lawyer begins his fifteen-year confinement with great feelings of loneliness and boredom. As the years pass, he begins reading voraciously, studying various languages and histories. He reads only the New Testament for an entire year and then moves on to various sciences. At the end of fifteen years, he is a scholar on various subjects.

With only one day remaining in the lawyer's confinement, it certainly seems as if he will win the bet and therefore the millions he has wagered with the banker. The banker is distraught; during this period of time, he has lost a great fortune on the stock exchange and is no longer a wealthy man. Terrified of public disgrace, the banker sneaks into the lawyer's chamber of isolation, plotting to kill him.

He is appalled by the lawyer's appearance. He resembles a skeleton and has aged significantly during his confinement. He has been writing a letter, which is on the table and which the banker reads. The letter conveys the lawyer's dismay with society. He claims that men have gone "mad" and have "bartered heaven for earth." He no longer wants to be part of society, which he has grown to despise. To demonstrate the sincerity of his beliefs, he plans to renounce the millions and leave just before the time limit of his confinement expires.

Sure enough, a watchman sees the lawyer escaping through the window of his chamber, disappearing beyond the banker's garden. The banker, still fearing his own public disgrace, takes the lawyer's letter and locks it away before anyone else can read it.

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What is another ending to the story of "The Bet" by Anton Chekhov?

You could really come up with multiple endings that make sense, so I recommend choosing the ending that you likely initially hoped for. 

My ending of choice is the ending I wish the story had ended with in the first place. At the beginning of the story, the banker is confident that capital punishment is more humane, and the lawyer is confident that life in prison is more humane. The two make a bet about it, and the lawyer agrees to spend fifteen years in solitary confinement.

The ending I originally hoped for was the lawyer walking out of his prison house after fifteen years, politely asking for his winnings, telling the banker "I told you so," and walking happily into the sunset. It's not a very thought-provoking ending, but the story would at least end with a "winner." I feel the actual ending has both the banker and the lawyer losing. They both wind up more miserable than they were when the story began. With my alternate ending, the lawyer wins the bet and exits by leaving the reader with a "happily ever after" vibe.  

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