GAGNO, Gabriel John P.

III – Saint Joseph

11.21.2009 Ms. Doris Evita C. Ferrer

The Dual Sided Story with a Dual Sided Bet
A Structural Analysis of Anton Chekhov’s “The Bet”
It has always been a fact that Russian writers make stories based on themes of death, suffering, and grief. They also are famous for tumbling themes, i.e., themes that jump from one emotion to another. They also are known for their good style of playing around a particular theme and making it so unpredictable that audiences found out that their expected endings are wrong, thus putting them on real suspense. Among these Russian writers rose the names Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Anton Chekhov, who could manipulate such dark themes with amazing writing power. Chekhov showed it right in “The Lament” and “The Boor”, two of his well-renowned plays. However, he wrote in a much more extraordinary way in “The Bet”, where the two sides of the story are completely distinct of each other. Let’s find out those two sides right now.

The story started when an unnamed banker reminisced an autumn party he held fifteen years ago, when he staked 2 million for anyone who could stay in prison for 5. But a young man, lawyer, did made the deal and even extended the terms: 15 years of solitary confinement. During those fifteen years the lawyer was provided an unlimited supply of whatever he wants: books, lectures, coffee, and everything else. The only things that were deprived of him were access and communication to the outside world. The fifteen years have made this lawyer a sage, thinking that wisdom and everything that belongs to this Earth isn’t good. He practically broke away with Earthly ways, and as a sign of which he broke the contract with the banker and eventually the world.

Chekhov, a popular chronicler of the Russian street life, wrote a double sided story. The banker made a deal with the lawyer, and the lawyer accepted it. If you look at it in a shallow, nonlogical, and non-literary position, you will see how the banker lost the bet he stayed in confinement for 15 years without violating the terms and conditions that were agreed upon 15 years ago. However, the logical view states that the lawyer actually won the deal. One thing supporting this is that he went out 5 hours before 12 AM of November 14, 1885, the exact time set to free him, signifying that the lawyer broke out from the world and the contract, and thus violated the contract and defeated the banker. In one sense however the banker still won the deal, since the lawyer escaped five hours before the fixed time, thus concluding that he can’t stay for fifteen years and thus proving the banker right. The banker also won because the lawyer told his “warden” how he despised everything that belongs to this earth. He also was slowly being killed inside, therefore proving the original argument, “capital punishment is better than life imprisonment”, right. The story represents fictionally a reality of life. One should look in the optimistic side of life: that all suffering we have in this world has some meaning. Needless to say, The Eraserheads stresses this in their song “Hard to Believe” (sticker happy). Here are a few lines: “I find it hard to believe that all the pain that we are feeling has some meaning in this world.” The lawyer was deprived of 15 precious years of his life, but inside his solitary confinement he learned lots of things and even enjoyed inside the prison. This signifies our very suffering in the world: That today is suffering, tomorrow is learning.

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