“The Bet” Write Up by Jeylan Jones


In the captivating short story “The Bet” by Anton Chekov, a wealthy man holding a party gets into a heated debate about human rights with one of his guests. This leads to them making a bet, or as many said in Chekov’s time, a wager. A man younger than himself bet that he could spend 15 years in solitude with only simple things like cigars and writing letters to entertain him. He was, however, not given any contact with the outside world. He couldn’t see people, receive letters from them, etc. the stakes a whopping $2 million. The man thrives for almost all 15 years before dropping out because he found humanity stupid and didn’t want something as frivolous as money.

What I found particularly compelling about this story was not only the outrageous yet realistic plot, but the balance between quantity and quality of details. He spends not too much or too little, but just enough time on each detail before moving on to the next description, which is very numerous. He has a lot of details in his piece and instead of having a few details and stopping to examine every little point, he goes the less poetic route and incorporates many details and only spends about a sentence on each, which to many, makes it feel a lot more like a short story. Basically, the more abundant fine points described fairly well in the story gave me more of a complete picture than describing a few things to the point of exhaustion.

I also find the dynamic “young, ambitious, male antagonist” character an interesting archetype. This is a particularly intriguing character because he’s an antagonist who isn’t so much as casted as mean or evil but simply going against the main character, who, in fact, seems to be the cruel one, similar to the 2004 movie “Catwoman.” On that note, I would like to point out how refreshing it is to see the story from the point of view of a character who is a total Jefferson (jerk). The main character is 95% of the time made out to be a selfless hero, and the villain evil, but Chekov’s story was unique because the protagonist was the mean one and the antagonist seemed like a normal young man.

What can I find to imitate or use in my own writing? Good question. I can learn to duplicate the density of his content. Like I said, Chekov is very good at fitting the right details in the right places and knowing how long to drag them out before starting a new thought. This makes the piece flow more gracefully and evenly disperse description throughout the story. I’d like to work on that instead of focusing on one point and merely brushing against parts just as important like I sometimes do.

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