“You are mad, and gone the wrong way. You take
falsehood for truth and ugliness for beauty.”

- lawyer from A.C.’s “The Bet”

Through analyzing this excerpt from the story of “The Bet” by
Anton Chekhov, one can sense the imprisoned lawyer criticizing the
banker of being ignorant and insane. What exactly does it mean to be
insane or ignorant? By definition, for one to be classified as
insane, they would have the inability to mediate with reality at
will. The definition of ignorance can be grasped by analyzing
Plato’s concept of “Simile of the Cave”. Ignorance is depicted as
the lowest level or form of knowledge one can obtain. If one would
want to deepen their understanding of “The Bet”, “Simile of the Cave”
would smoothly coincide and explain the concepts of ignorance and
insanity present in this story.
Before comparing the two stories, we must comprehend “Simile of
the Cave”. The journey of the prisoner from ignorance to the truth,
holds deep and significant meanings. Recalling from the story, the
prisoner is forced from the realm of ignorance to guesswork, zoa,
mathematica, and finally to archai. As the journey through the cave
to the outside world is analyzed, one can evidently see the prisoner
rise above ignorance by trying to seek the truth (in the world of
archai). Knowing that the prisoner learned many truths, it is valid
to say that he is becoming wiser. By the time the emancipated
prisoner reaches and becomes content in the world of archai (truth),
the guards struggle to take him back to the benches in the world of
guesswork. When the prisoner is seated back in guesswork, he
explains of his findings to the other prisoners that remained on the
benches during his voyage. We find that after he explains of his new
findings and theories, he is classified as insane by the rest of the
prisoners. The other prisoners do not believe him, due to that they
have not experienced it for themselves. The question of who the real
insane and ignorant man is, now remains. Through the eyes of the
prisoner-philosopher, it is the other prisoners that are insane and
ignorant. Why? It is because the prisoners are taking “falsehood
for truth” (Chekhov, 375). They fail to believe that there is
actually more to the world besides mere shadows upon a cave wall.
Yet, the other prisoners probably classified the prisoner-philosopher
as insane, due to him jabber of concepts that they have never heard
of within their lifetime on the bench. Clearly, ignorance and
insanity play a critical part of the voyage through the cave.
The voyage of the young lawyer versus the journey of the
prisoner-philosopher are very similar. Within the first year of the
lawyer’s imprisonment he does not accept any fine wines or tabacco,
and finds entertainment by playing the piano. During the times he
does not play the piano, the guards would bring him books to read.
At first he was sent novels of comedy, mystery, romance, and fantasy.
By the end of the 4 year, he does not play the piano, yet he decides
to start reading classics. Just as the prisoner repeatedly named
shadows on the wall, the lawyer frequently read of fictional books
with the same plot. The repetitive plots may be due to the selection
of the guards. Therefore, these guards are similar to the parade of
men that force the prisoners to see the same shadows constantly.
Yet, with the amount of books that the lawyer read, the plots were
bound to be repetitive. After examining the lawyer’s status, we can
figuratively say that the lawyer is still chained to the bench in the
realm of guesswork.
By the turn of the lawyer’s fifth year, the lawyer has gone
through a dramatic change. It is through the truth test of
correspondence that makes the lawyer not want to read any more books.
The lawyer is bored of reading novels and classics because the plots
of each book became predictable. At this point the lawyer is found
constantly crying, arguing and destroying letters that he wrote.
There are many explanations to the lawyer’s frustration. A few
reasons is that the original length of time the bet was suppose to
last was five years and not fifteen. Plus the bet was senseless since
he could only try the alternative punishment and live to talk about
it afterwards. The reason that probably devastated the lawyer the
most was that he was imprisoned for not committing a crime. In
relating the two journeys the lawyer is finally in the realm of zoa.