You are on page 1of 4

Hannah Alston

English 1010
Mrs. Agee
9 October 2014

The Bet Character Analysis

The ongoing conflict of capital punishment being considered morally acceptable

still goes on today. There are many opinions going for and against it. Also, many people
believe that its more just than lifetime imprisonment. The short story The Bet tells
about a lawyer and a banker who disagree on whether capital punishment or lifetime
imprisonment is more righteous. The banker decides to wager two million dollars in favor
of the lawyer not being able to withstand five years of imprisonment. After analyzing the
short story The Bet by Anton Chekhov, one can see the transition of the characteristics
of the lawyer from materialistic, prideful, and nave to spiritual, humble, and wise
through his revelations during the many years of his confinement.
At the beginning of the story, the lawyer would be perceived as young, arrogant,
and greedy. The lawyer carelessly made a bet with the banker that could only result in
negative consequences for himself. You stake your millions, and I stake my freedom!
said the young lawyer (page 2). He senselessly gave up fifteen years of his life for the
two million dollars he would receive if he could withstand the quarantine. He took the
wager without a second thought, showing how greedy and simple-minded he was at the
time. The banker soon after came to realization that the bet was impulsive and no good

could come of it. What is the good of that mans losing fifteen years of his life and my
throwing away two millions? questioned the banker (page 2). Although the lawyer could
have backed out of the bet then and there, he stubbornly refused, which demonstrates
how prideful he was then. He chose voluntary imprisonment for fifteen years in return for
two million dollars over withdrawing from the bet, making clear that he was materialistic.
The characteristics of nave, prideful, and materialistic describe the lawyer at the start of
the short story.
During the middle of the lawyers imprisonment, the lawyer experienced ups and
downs in his mental state. In the first year, he refused wine and tobacco and kept to his
piano mostly, while severely suffering from depression and loneliness. Wineexcites
the desires, and desires are the worst foes of the prisoner; and besides, nothing could be
more dreary than drinking good wine and seeing no one, wrote the lawyer (page 2). The
imprisonment had already begun to teach him to be wise and much less nave to
unnecessary pleasures. Throughout his next couple years in confinement, he gave into
drinking wine. This caused his mental state to fluctuate and become unstable. all that
year he spent doing nothing but eating and drinking and lying on his bed, frequently
yawning and talking angrily to himself...he would spend hours writing, and in the
morning tear up all that he had written. More than once he could be heard crying, (page
2-3). The prisoners mental state really started to become unsteady, and would have
proved the banker right, but then the lawyer soon got back on track. the prisoner began
zealously studying languages, philosophy, and history, (page 3). The lawyer put all his
effort and focus into his studies to better himself, so he also grew sensible. After the tenth
year, he read nothing but the Gospel. Although, the lawyers thoughts are not truly

revealed, this shows that he became spiritual and more knowledgeable. The lawyer
underwent many ups and downs throughout his confinement.
At the end of the story, the lawyer could be seen as spirtual, humble, and wise.
The day before the fifteen years of imprisonment, the lawyer wrote a letter to the banker
saying that he no longer wanted the money and would leave five minutes prior to the end
of his voluntary sentence. He started the letter by revealing that he had found God during
his solidarity. With a clear conscience I tell you, as before God, who beholds me...
declared the prisoner (page 4). After he had spent a year of only reading the Gospel, he
had definitely become spiritual instead of continuing to be materialistic. I renounce the
two million of which I once dreamed as of paradise and which I now despise, wrote the
lawyer (page 5). Also, he gave up the two million dollars for which he had spent fifteen
years of his life in confinement, showing just how unmaterialistic and humble he had
become. As well as spiritual, he became very wise as well. Your books have given me
wisdom, announced the lawyer (page 5). Not only academically intellectual, but wise in
the sense of life, too. You may be proud, wise, and fine, but death will wipe you off the
face of the earth... argued the lawyer (page 5). The prisoner had become aware of the
concept of life after death when becoming religious, so he realized that no matter the
amount of money and possessions that one has on earth, none of that will matter in
heaven. Spiritual, humble, and wise are all characteristics that described the lawyer at the
end of the story.
One can understand the change of the lawyers characteristics from materialistic,
proud, and nave to humble, religious, and wise after reading the short story The Bet by
Anton Chekhov. He chose his fate when he was prideful, nave, and materialistic and

kept the bet ongoing when he could have ended it before it started. After being in
confinement for a while, he began to change his beliefs and views on life. He became
wise, humble, and spiritual after the long years of confinement. He figured out what he
believed life was really about and how he wanted to live it during his prolonged years in