Anton Chekhov's The Bet

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Though Anton Chekhov's "The Bet" was written in a different country at a different time, it portrays a timeless theme; greed is a crippling trait of mankind. This message can be seen through the author's use of characterization of both the lawyer and the banker. The banker was a static character; he was greedy from start to finish. The lawyer was a dynamic character and he saw the wrong in his ways and changed them in the end. The author portrayed the banker as a foolish and greedy man, and since Chekhov characterized him as static, he never changed. His inability to alter his ways resulted in him making an extraordinarily rash bet and later on him wanting to kill a man in cold blood. “That is not true! I bet you two million that you wouldn’t even last five years in a cell on your own” (Chekhov 960). In this quote the banker bet two million ruble on a wager made in less than two minutes; he never stopped to think about things in the long term. As a result, he let a young, naïve man, the lawyer, spend fifteen years in solitary confinement. The banker was so sure that he would win that he was willing to bet a fortune on it and when it came time to lose his money, he couldn’t. The author conveyed the banker as a person who couldn’t change via his use of characterization through dialogue. Through Chekhov’s use of the banker’s words the reader could infer the he was frozen in his avarice. It was only the beginning of his life when the banker made the bet but the author portrayed his character in such a way that the reader could deduce that he would never change. “To put paid to any unnecessary disputes later on he picked up the sheet with the renunciation from the table, turned to the house and locked it in his fireproof safe” (964). ... ... middle of paper ... ...and he ultimately realized that mankind is foolish. After fifteen years of reading, the lawyer became so wise that he rose above greed and foolishness and lived the lives of a thousand men. He saw that mankind is truly on the wrong path and did not wish to be part of it. Though the lawyer did not speak in the end, the author’s use of the characterization through thoughts let the reader see how dynamic the lawyer was as he was able to change his ways in the end. Chekhov used characterization to put forward the message that greed is a truly crippling trait of mankind. Through both the actions and dialogue of the banker the reader saw how greed causes man to behave. Via the dialogue and thoughts of the dynamic character, the lawyer, the reader realized the awful results of avarice. Greed is a timeless theme that, throughout history, has had a perpetually poor outcome.