The Value of Human Life in The Bet by Anton Chekhov

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In the short story “The Bet” by Anton Chekhov a wager is made that changes the lives of two people. The story begins with a heated argument at a party over which is more moral, capital punishment or life imprisonment. The host of the party, the banker, believes that capital punishment is more moral because the death sentence kills the victim quicker rather than dragging out the process. A twenty-five year old lawyer at the party responds, saying, he would choose the life sentence to be more moral because any life is better than no life at all. Hearing this response causes the banker to bet the lawyer two million dollars that the lawyer can not last five years in solitary confinement. The lawyer accepts the wager, but pushes it to fifteen years in hopes of making a point. The terms of the wager are that the lawyer is to live in solitary confinement without any human interaction for fifteen years, but is granted any books, music, wine, etc. that he wants. As the fifteen years pass, the lawyer discovers the significance of human life. Anton Chekhov’s “The Bet” emphasizes the idea that the life of a human is far more valuable than money.

The perceived value of money is misconstrued by numerous people. As illustrated in the story, people can look too highly upon money. The banker praises his money and enjoys his wealth deeply, but by the end of the story, the investor luck has changed. Having lost his fortunes, he believes his only chance of surviving in the world is if he holds onto as much money as he can. This desperation causes the banker to fret over the day he has to pay the lawyer two million dollars. The banker absolutely opposes giving up his money; therefore, the banker is willing to kill the lawyer so that the contract is void. This plan shows the banker valued his money above everything else, even another human.

In real life, many people believe that once they have money can answer problems. They might inherit a large sum of money and then feel as though they never need to work again. Little do they know that there is more to life than money. Moreover, complete satisfaction and life’s answers can not come from money alone. Joy and satisfaction come from the priceless moments in life such as the birth of a child.

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