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May Week 3

Teen Reader

   The Bet

“The Bet” (1889)

“The Bet” Text Version

“The Bet” Audio Version

Anton Chekhov 

Anton Chekhov (born January 29 [January 17, Old Style], 1860, Taganrog, Russia—died July 14/15 [July 1/2], 1904, Badenweiler, Germany) was a Russian playwright and master of the modern short story. He was a literary artist of laconic precision who probed below the surface of life, laying bare the secret motives of his characters. Chekhov’s best plays and short stories lack complex plots and neat solutions. Concentrating on apparent trivialities, they create a special kind of atmosphere, sometimes termed haunting or lyrical. He is known for the principle in drama called "Chekhov’s gun," which asserts that every element introduced in a story should be necessary to the plot, and he frequently illustrated the principle by using a gun as an example of an essential element. Chekhov described the Russian life of his time using a deceptively simple technique devoid of obtrusive literary devices, and he is regarded as the outstanding representative of the late 19th-century Russian realist school.

 “The Bet” Discussion Questions

Do you agree with the lawyer that "To live anyhow is better than not at all?"

What is meant by “The State is not God”?

Why does the lawyer move from novels of "light character" to the "classics"?

Is this a step up or a step down? Explain.

What are "classics"? How would they differ from novels of "light character"?

Why do you think the lawyer takes the bet? What do you think this says about this life?

What does the lawyer mean when he says that "desires are the worst foes of the prisoner"? Is this true?

In the last two years the lawyer reads a little bit of everything. Why is this?

The narrator characterizes his reading as "a man swimming in the sea among the wreckage of his ship, and trying to save his life by greedily clutching first at one spar and then at another." What does this mean? Is this true?

The lawyer once saw the two millions as "paradise," but now he despises the

money. Why?

In what ways is the lawyer a different man? In what ways is the banker a

different man?

The lawyer writes in his letter, "The geniuses of all ages and of all lands speak different languages, but the same flame burns in them all." What does he mean by this? Is this true?

How does Chekhov convey the banker’s feeling of anxiety in the opening paragraph?

How does his use of flashbacks make this story more suspenseful?

How does the lawyer’s behavior change from year to year during his imprisonment? Why?

After being imprisoned for 15 years. Would the lawyer still argue that, “Any sort of life’s better than none at all.”? Explain.

Considering the banker’s assumption that the lawyer is “Probably asleep dreaming of all those millions,” what is ironic, or surprising, about the lawyer’s note?

Considering the description of the lawyer’s behavior during his imprisonment, how would you explain the content of his note?

Answer the Banker's question: "Which executioner is the more humane, he who kills you in a few minutes or he who drags the life out of you in the course of many years?


Was the young man better off at the end of the story?

Who won the bet? Think about it first…

What is the theme or main point of this story?

Wouldn't it have been better to take the money? Why or why not?


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