by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov
The Bet Isolation Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Section.Paragraph)
It was decided that the young man should spend the years of his captivity under the strictest supervision in one of the lodges in the banker's garden. It was agreed that for fifteen years he should not be free to cross the threshold of the lodge, to see human beings, to hear the human voice, or to receive letters and newspapers. He was allowed to have a musical instrument and books, and was allowed to write letters, to drink wine, and to smoke. By the terms of the agreement, the only relations he could have with the outer world were by a little window made purposely for that object. He might have anything he wanted—books, music, wine, and so on—in any quantity he desired by writing an order, but could only receive them through the window. The agreement provided for every detail and every trifle that would make his imprisonment strictly solitary. (1.14)
The point of the imprisonment isn't deprivation (you know, living on bread and water with a bunch of rats for friends). The point is just social isolation, which really is a whole other ball of wax. Is this really a good experiment to see whether the death penalty or life imprisonment is the better option? No prisoner has the kind of sweet setup that the lawyer ends up with, after all.
For the first year of his confinement, as far as one could judge from his brief notes, the prisoner suffered severely from loneliness and depression. The sounds of the piano could be heard continually day and night from his lodge. He refused wine and tobacco. Wine, he wrote, excites 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. (1.15)
Dude, you're doing the wine thing all wrong—you've gotta drink past the whole desire thing and straight into the singing loudly to yourself while dancing on the table like no one's watching (which is true). Not that Shmoop would know anything about that. What happened at college stays at college.
In the second half of the sixth year the prisoner began zealously studying languages, philosophy, and history. He threw himself eagerly into these studies […]
"My dear Jailer, I write you these lines in six languages. Show them to people who know the languages. Let them read them. If they find not one mistake I implore you to fire a shot in the garden. That shot will show me that my efforts have not been thrown away. The geniuses of all ages and of all lands speak different languages, but the same flame burns in them all. Oh, if you only knew what unearthly happiness my soul feels now from being able to understand them!" (1.17-18)
Why is the dude so psyched to have learned all these languages? Shmoop's little pet theory is that since the lawyer is totally cut off from humans in the present, he's trying to connect to humanity through the past. Or maybe he's just pretentious.