“The Bet” is quite an interesting story since it can be appreciated as a simple reading-piece or as a complex, contentious, argumentative text that deals with the very controversial topic of capital punishment. From the very beginning, it grabs the reader’s attention by introducing the death penalty issue as the chief subject of a pretty heated discussion between two characters that, by merely expressing their point of view, will become the two main characters of the story. One of them is an old banker who has made a great fortune by participating in some highly profitable investments.
The other one is a young, promising lawyer who shares his life with, apparently, no one. The banker, old-fashioned as he is, believes capital punishment is far more effective than imprisonment for life; however, this being said, the young lawyer stands up and does not hesitate when it comes for him to speak out his point of view: that life imprisonment is what should be applied by law because “… The death sentence and the life sentence are equally immoral, but… To live anyhow is better than not to all. Consequently, a lively discussion arose and the banker got aired away by excitement and, therefore, betted two million pounds that the lawyer wasn’t going to be strong enough to stay in solitary confinement for five years. In the heat of the moment, or maybe because of his self-determination; not only did the lawyer take the bet, but actually made it worth for fifteen years. But who was the strongest? Who was going to successfully prove his point of view to the others? Well, the author (Anton Chekhov) wrote this particular story in an absolutely objective way: he did not evidence his personal point of view whatsoever.
In fact, this story turned UT to be so impartial that it is rather hard to tell who’s right and who’s wrong when it comes to an end. Therefore, we can only assume that, in order to achieve this degree of neutrality, the author had to use two much defined personalities. This is probably why this two men can be described so easily: because of their strong and determined character that will only help us understand why do they stand by this two very opposite ideologies. The lawyer, as far as he has been described throughout the story, totally fulfils this requirement by being as ambitious, focused and determined s he is.
And why can the reader be so sure that the lawyer is that ambitious? Simply because it takes a lot of this quality to be able to give up absolutely everything for the humble figure of two million pounds. And why can the audience describe this amount of money as a humble figure? Just because, compared to freedom, this money is completely worthless. Why would someone be after so much money if he is wasting fifteen years of his life by staying voluntarily locked up? Earnestly, It cannot be explained since nothing should really matter when your freedom is at stake… Nothing would be more important.
After all, let us Just remember that the lawyer’s ambition is far from stopping there: he was also quite hungry for wisdom and knowledge. During his incarceration years, the lawyer did actually grow to enjoy, and even love, the reading and learning of various aspects such as languages, philosophy, history, sciences, medicine, theology and literature. Besides, once the bet was accepted by both men, it was decided that the lawyer would stay under the strictest supervision, being exclusively aloud to ask for books, a musical instrument, wine, cigarettes and newspapers.
Nevertheless, the lawyer refused wine and tobacco because “… Wine excites the desires, and tobacco spoilt the air of his room… “. Therefore, he had to adjust by getting used to spend all of his time surrounded by books. He, then, went from Shakespeare and Byron all the way to The Gospel and a manual of medicine. The more he spent in that prison, the more information he got into his system. But it was never quite enough. Nothing was ever enough. Now, when it comes to the lawyer’s extreme determination, there is one specific quote that fits in perfectly: “… UT I would stay not five, but fifteen years”. This informs all possible doubts about the lawyer being ready to sacrifice everything for one simple bet. Moreover, it verifies that he is a rather lonely and solitary man. Albeit we can only guess what was going through the lawyer’s mind when he decided to extend the five-year bet by ten years; supposing that he might have felt that five years were not nearly enough as for him to demonstrate he was right and “defeat” the banker might be a quite accurate presumption.
Also, when it comes for him to demonstrate how wiser he had grown during those shelter years, he immediately wants to make everyone aware of his knowledge. This is why he decides to write a letter in six different languages, all of which he learned while being in prison; and asks the banker to mail it to anyone who could correct him so that, should they find not one mistake, a shot should be fired as for him to be aware of whether he had done well or not. The banker, satisfying the lawyer’s request, did as he had been asked to and, as a consequence, two shots were fired.
This filled the lawyer’s hart with an “… Unearthly happiness… “, thus it corroborates that he was strong-minded about making the most out of this fifteen years even if many other men would have insider it a waste of time and a way of throwing a person’s life away. Let us not forget that the lawyer’s determination went so far that he actually turned down the to million pounds payment that was owed to him for being able to cope with the voluntary fifteen-years imprisonment. He even said he despised “… Freedom and life and health. And that is why, to provide evidence for it, he was to leave the prison “. Five hours before the time fixed, and so break the compact… ” Was he or was he not ready to do anything and everything as to impose his standpoint? I think he was, he finitely was. Being as focused as he is might be considered as another great quality of his that allowed him to muddle through with the voluntary imprisonment. He somehow managed to make up a plan that would, eventually, prevent him from finding himself full of spare time and nothing to spend it on.
It must be really hard to stay in a room for fifteen year without losing your mind. Admirably, he achieved it. Even though, the first couple of years he spent in that room weren’t especially easy for him (“… He suffered severely from loneliness and depression… “, spent days eating and drinking ND lying on his bed, yawned angrily while talking to himself and wrote things so as to tear them up later), he did finally focus and realized how much he could accomplish if he only took it seriously and worked hard. And he did.
Just remember the extent of his advanced language, theology, philosophy, history, sciences and literature studies, and decide for yourself whether he wasted his time or not. He used up those years by learning new skills: he read books, studied various subjects, played the piano, and finally found a way so as to let people know that he had done all those things. His thirst for knowledge could only be satisfied by learning more and more, non-stop; and after carrying out this Job, he made sure his efforts were properly recognized.
It takes a lot of strength to be capable of dedicating such a lot of time to one particular thing, but it takes even more vigor to do it from prison and for fifteen years. He controlled himself well enough, focusing on “the task” and; as a result, proved that voluntary incarceration could be handled as promised. When I was told to write an essay describing either the banker or the lawyer, I thought it couldn’t really be done. However, finding three main qualities that made them so different but gave them both a strong character was not as hard as I thought it would be.
I decided to choose the lawyer simply because, in my opinion, he’s constantly developing. At the very beginning of the story, he says that life should be appreciated more than anything else. Yet, when the story comes to an end; he states that, after going through everything that he went through during those fifteen years, he now despises life and health. Besides, he is pretty ever-changing, as it can be seen when he modifies his activities from year to year during his incarceration time.
Now, as far as I’m concerned, none of this transformations he went through, was really a decisive point when it comes for the reader to choose which is better: incarceration for life or capital punishment. Why? Well, simply because his condition after spending fifteen years in Jail substantiates the fact that lifelong imprisonment kills slowly: the lawyer was so thin that “He was a skeleton with the skin drawn tight over his bones… “, his face was yellow and his cheeks hollow, his hands were thin and delicate and his hair had grown silver. “. No one could have believed that he was only forty. Consequently, I believe that, in order to finish this piece of writing properly, some words about the main theme of the story should be wrote down. Therefore, I shall include my personal opinion on the subject: I believe that “The State Is not God. It has not the right to take away what it cannot restore when it wants to. ” It isn’t immoral to apply imprisonment for life as a way of punishment for those who kill or rape. It is only fair. However, it is quite understandable when people think of a murderer and wish they could see him gone for good.
Even so, nowadays, we cannot afford having people who take Justice on their own hands applying the eye for an eye ancient policy, it Just wouldn’t work… It would turn societies into many messy anarchist systems. When you make use of that kind of policy, you turn into an even more immoral person than whoever did it simply because you are committing the same crime (even if it isn’t against the law) and you are simply doing it as a vendetta. Likewise, it is not up to the State to decide who dies and who doesn’t. If the State kills, no matter the reasons they might give for doing such a thing, it is still like killing someone.
It shouldn’t even be considered as a possibility to deal with the criminals because it only sends out one message: killing is the solution; and that can only lead to a more violent society. This being already said, I suppose this story never gives out a conclusion. It has an open ending as regards the capital punishment matter. It never says who’s right and who’s wrong and, because of this, it gives the reader the opportunity to consider the two viewpoints and make up an opinion for himself. Or at least, that is what happened to me. This confirms how this story is, after all, incredibly objective.