Code: Tregime

Short stories
[Cechov Anton]

As the story opens, the banker recalls the occasion of the bet fifteen years before. Guests at the party that he was hosting that day fell into a discussion of capital punishment; the banker argued that capital punishment is more humane than life imprisonment, while the young lawyer disagreed, insisting that he would choose life in prison rather than death. They agree to a bet of two million rubles that the lawyer cannot spend fifteen years in solitary confinement. The bet was on, and the lawyer cast himself into isolation for fifteen years.
The man spends his time in confinement reading books, writing, playing piano, studying, drinking wine, and educating himself. We find him continuously growing throughout the story. We see various phases in his term of imprisonment over the years. At first, the lawyer suffered from severe loneliness and depression. But soon began studying vigorously. He begins with languages and other related subjects. Then, a mix of science, literature, philosophy and other seemingly random subjects. He ends up reading some six hundred volumes in the course of four years. Then, the Gospel followed by theology and histories of religion. In the final two years, the imprisoned lawyer read immensely on chemistry, medicine and philosophy, and sometimes works of Byron or Shakespeare.
In the meantime, the banker's fortune declines and he realizes that if he loses, paying off the bet will leave him bankrupt.
The day before the fifteen-year period concludes, the banker resolves to kill the lawyer so as to not owe him the money. On his way to do so, however, the banker finds a note written by the lawyer. The note declares that in his time in confinement he has learned to despise material goods as fleeting things and he believes that knowledge is worth more than money. To this end he elects to renounce the reward of the bet. The banker was moved and shocked to his bones after reading the note, kisses the strange man on the head and leaves the lodge weeping, relieved not to have to kill anyone. The prison warden later reports that the lawyer has left the guest house, thus losing the bet and unwittingly saving his own life.Olenka Plemyannikova, the daughter of a retired collegiate assessor, falls in love with the theater owner, Kukin. Olenka’s father dies and she marries Kukin, the two of them live a happy married life. She soon takes over some of his roles in the box office by keeping accounts and the business end of some payments; during this time she becomes more involved in the business and acts like Kukin. Kukin travels to Moscow and dies; Olenka is given word of his death and mourns for three months. Olenka soon finds another man she becomes attached to, Vasily Pustovalov, a merchant from a timber yard; after a few days she becomes infatuated by him and they marry. Olenka disregards all responsibilities of the theater and concentrates on the opinions and thoughts of her new husband. The two of them live a comfortable life of casual talk and religious activities until Vasily becomes ill and dies from a prolonged cold. Shortly after Vasily's death another man enters Olenka’s life, Smirnin, a veterinary surgeon. Smirnin complains that he had left his wife and son because of her unfaithfulness, so he is offered the lodge to live in with Olenka until he is able to fix the situation. Olenka and Smirnin become involved with one another, but try to keep it a secret; this fails because Olenka talks to Smirnin’s friends about the cattle, which embarrasses him. Smirnin leaves to travel to Moscow and is gone for months, during this time Olenka cannot think of anything independently from her husband or predominant male figure and is unable to create an opinion. Smirnin finally returns and states that he has started working again as a veterinary because his son is now at the age of attending school and that he has reconciled with his wife; Smirnin’s family moves into the lodge that Olenka offers to them. Olenka soon becomes obsessed with the son, Sasha; she follows him to school and confesses that she loved him, “never had her soul surrendered to any feeling so spontaneously.” The final line in the short story is a quote from a sleeping Sasha, “I’ll give it to you, get away! Shut up!”
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