SHORT STORY CRITICAL REVIEW
Student’s Name:Date of Presentation:
Story: The Bet
Author: Anton Chekhov (1860 -1904)
Central Character (Protagonist) : The Lawyer and the Banker (no names – generalization? You may mention this kind of ideas in your presentation) Setting: 1870s – 1880s in the banker’s mansion
Narrator : Third Person, Limited Omniscience
Events in Summary (Plot) :
“Perhaps it was the sweetness of their lives that made the ancient Egyptians so obsessed with death." by Larry Gonick .... (You may find some qoutes to summarize the banker’s fear of death, for instance.) The banker and the young lawyer argues whether capital punishment or life imprisonment is a worse punishment and deterent. This discussion leads to a bet in which the banker stakes his two millions and the lawyer 15 years of his “sweet” life. The lawyer agrees to spend that long in a prison-like “lodge” in the banker’s garden under strict conditions such as no human contact, no travel etc. He is allowed to write letters, to drink wine and smoke, to play music, and to read, though. Both sides keep their promises to a very high extent during the banker’s “self-imposed imprisonment” and both characters change. Especially the changes the “prisoner” undergoes are remarkable. Shockingly, the lawyer prisoner breaks the compact 5 hours before the time fixed.
Tone : Awe at the changes in the lawyer; partially ironic
Style : Anton Checkhov –master of short stories, mastery is obvious. Perfect metaphors, adroitly built plot and an end that blows your mind. Irony : his imprisonment was in vain!? Who is the real winner? Theme: gambling is evil; fear of death and loathing for living
Symbols : No significant symbols other than “money” which symbolizes power and something very important that has to be had. Wine? Books? (sleep on the two minor symbols)
Select Quotes :
His reading suggested 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. (paraphrase: in his final years, the vessel on which he relied has disintegrated and he is left to desperately try one plank after another in search of one that will bear him up above the waves.) The geniuses of all ages and of all lands speak different languages, but the same flame burns in them all. Oh, if you only knew what unearthly happiness my soul feels now from being able to understand them!" Then after the tenth year, the prisoner sat immovably at the table and read nothing but the Gospel. It seemed strange to the banker that a man who in four years had mastered six hundred learned volumes should waste nearly a year over one thin book easy of comprehension. Theology and histories of religion followed the Gospels. I despise wisdom and the blessings of this world. It is all worthless, fleeting, illusory, and deceptive, like a mirage. You may be proud, wise, and fine, but death will wipe you off the face of the earth "You have lost your reason and taken the wrong path. You have taken lies for truth, and hideousness for beauty. You would marvel if, owing to strange events of some sorts, frogs and lizards suddenly grew on apple and orange trees instead of fruit, or if roses began to smell like a sweating horse; so I marvel at you who exchange heaven for earth. I don't want to understand you.
Evaluation : All in all, I think this story is …
I find it ..
I wish ..
I am going to ..
This is the …. story I’ve ever …