The Bet was written by Chekhov as the reconsideration of life, as an attempt to sum up what is important and what is not in one’s life. This is a story of 15 years of life of two different people told in several pages.
Fifteen years past, and no vivid descriptions of the way of live are given, as Chekhov never does. All we know that the banker has now more debs than money, thus we can conclude those 15 years were spent purposelessly, vainly and a proud rich became a trembling old man. He is in horror that in 24 hours he has to part with two million and then he is completely bankrupted. He dares to try to kill his prisoner.
Fifteen years for the lawyer were not rich on events, he spent them reading books, playing piano and sometimes having wine. No communication, no daylight, no simple joys of life. But he found his joy in books, every year his tastes were changing from easy romantic stories to religious books. The banker was rather astonished when in four years he lawyer had read more than 600 books, and had spent about four years on reading only Gospel. It shows what books are really important and that the last one is the one that can teach something and show the light for the seeker.
When the banker enters prisoner’s room he found a letter on the table. It says about lawyer’s renunciation of earthly goods and the spiritual blessings, about contempt for human existence and to all the people. During the sentence the prisoner got to know something about the life that forever separated him from his own kind. To prove his contempt, he, for several hours before being released, and winning, refuses the money and is going to leave before the appointed time. Banker is shocked, he is crying and kissing a strange sleeping man.
Before few hours of the pointed time the prisoner leaves and the letter is given to the old banker. We don’t know what effect it has on this old miserable man, but the fact that he put it into the fireproof safe shows that it is important for him, and he wants it to be unharmed. Maybe the old banker realized the vanity and emptiness of his life, we will never know. But as the old proverb says – better late than never.