by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov
The Bet Questions
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
- Why do we learn that the dude who does the imprisoning is a banker and that the prisoner is a lawyer? Why not a factory owner and a baker? Do their professions matter? Why or why not? Are we supposed to identify with the young lawyer in the beginning of the story? Is he heroic and worth imitating? Or is he patently crazy and totally inhuman to sign up for something like this?
- So, are we like the people that the young lawyer rejects in his letter to the banker—not worth understanding, and totally concerned with the physical world? Is this story calling us to some kind of action? Are we supposed to do something after reading it? Renounce wealth? Try to read as much as possible?
- Who, if anyone, ends up learning a lesson? Is it a lesson worth learning? Is either man better off after his experience?
- Okay, you're the publishers, and the audience has spoken. They want "The Bet 2: Electric Boogaloo," and you've got to give it to them. Whose story do you commission Chekhov to keep writing about—the banker or the lawyer? Whose life will be more interesting after the story ends? Why?
- The story is told from the point of view of the banker. What would be different if it were told from the point of view of the lawyer? Would it even be possible to tell it that way? What would his mind be like?
- The lawyer writes a note in many languages and asks the banker to fire a shot if it's all written correctly. Does this break the "no human communication" part of the bet? Why or why not?
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