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The Bet

The Bet

by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov

Sacrifice Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

"The State is not God. It has not the right to take away what it cannot restore when it wants to." (1.3)

Basically, this one dude's idea is that the government can't make sacrifices (which are, you know, by definition things you give up that you can't get back). What do you make of this argument—that the government should only have power over those things it can control absolutely? In other words, how much power is this guy saying the state needs to give up?

Quote #2

"Think better of it, young man, while there is still time. To me two millions are a trifle, but you are losing three or four of the best years of your life. I say three or four, because you won't stay longer. Don't forget either, you unhappy man, that voluntary confinement is a great deal harder to bear than compulsory. The thought that you have the right to step out in liberty at any moment will poison your whole existence in prison." (1.12)

The banker's main thing is to compare the two stakes to see if they match up in value. He claims that they don't, since the money is "a trifle" while several years of life seems like a crazy thing to give up. Let's see if his valuation of the two stakes holds up (spoiler alert: it doesn't—but why?).

Quote #3

"Cursed bet!" muttered the old man, clutching his head in despair. "Why didn't the man die? He is only forty now. He will take my last penny from me, he will marry, will enjoy life, will gamble on the Exchange; while I shall look at him with envy like a beggar." (2.3)

And just like that, the chickens are coming home to roost. Now the money seems to be worth way more than the years the lawyer spent imprisoned. Talk about a change in perspective.

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