The Bet

The Bet Study Guide

"The Bet" is a short story by Anton Pavlovich Chekov, written in 1889. It centers on a bet that is made one night between a banker and a young lawyer at a party of intellectuals. The banker, a successful millionaire and gambler bets the lawyer that he would not be able to endure 5 years of imprisonment, which the young lawyer extends to 15 years.

It is a tale typical of Chekov and ends tragically. It deals with morality and what the correct course of action is, placing the hypothetical into reality when the bet is carried out. Through this, Chekov exposes the true nature of humanity, in all its contempt and greed. He plays with philosophical questions in his text that would not be possible in real life, ultimately demonstrating that human life is more valuable than money.

"The Bet" lives on as one of Chekov's most well-known short stories, though at the time of its publication, he was very well-respected for his plays. Like many of Chekov's works, it lacks complexity in its plot and characters, and instead focuses on larger questions, and creates a haunting atmosphere. "The Bet" is considered a great example of the Russian realist school of literature from the later 19th-century.