Anton Chekhov, (1860-1904) was a Russian playwright as well as a short story writer. In his writing style, he is always unique and distinct with profound competency in dealing with human behaviour and psychology as well as nature…vast panoramic, wonderful Russian landscape.
There is no complex plot with pejorative profligacy. His characters are relatable and his plots are very mundane. But his distinguishing artistry lies in his super handling of a trivial matter with a dignified philosophy. Chekhov means concise language, impressive tone, laconic expression but the highest authenticity of psychological caricature. Our everyday thought, flow of incidents, general human passions and emotions attain a profound dignity and dimension at the backdrop of pathos and humour.
He can construct the skyscrapers over a simple base like a bet, a rainy day or the kaleidoscope of a lady’s inner turmoil. His short stories are polemical, punchy, epigrammatic and every story carries a distinct mark from the other. He is a mastermind of short stories. Each of his stories is unique in its interplay of different themes. And The Bet is no exception to it.
The story is in flashback… on a dark autumn night, a banker looks back at his past and recalls a party, 15 years ago, at his house.
At that party, the banker got tangled with a lawyer over an argument-capital punishment vs life imprisonment. Obnoxiously a simple innocuous debate took a vicious turn leading it to a disastrous bet. In a heat of conversation, they challenged each other.
“Execution kills instantly, life imprisonment kills by degrees.”
” It is better to live somehow than not to live at all.”