Chekhov on Solitary Confinementhat

Anton Not Pavel

When I started thinking about the topic of solitary confinement one of the first stories to come to mind was Anton Chekhov’s “The Bet.” I’ve read the story a few times over the years, and with each read I came away with some new and interesting insight. My recent reading was during the current Covid lockdowns and quarantines is no exception to finding something new to think about.

Anton Checkhov The Complete colection

The plot of “The Bet” is straight forward. A wealthy banker bets a young lawyer two million rubles (a large sum of money for the time) that the lawyer won’t commit himself to fifteen years of voluntary solitary confinement. This story is an insightful commentary on the long term effects of solitary confinement, but reading it in the time of Covid has me focusing on two points. The first is that voluntary confinement is much more difficult to bear than compulsory confinement. This is an interesting point when you see the spike in anxiety and depression in recent months amidst lockdowns and quarantines. The second point focuses on the lawyer’s reading habits during his confinement. His reading list got me thinking about what I’ve been reading during the past nine months and how confinement is influencing my reading list and impacting how I’m seeing the world.

Covid 19 lockdowns and quarantines have impacted all of us in varied ways. Fortunately none of us have been confined as long as the character of the story, but being able to relate to his self-imposed solitary confinement and the impact it has on him may help us better deal with our own lockdowns and quarantines. Anton Chekhov’s “The Bet” may help to put feelings of solitary confinement in perspective. Give it a read and let me know what you think.


“The Bet” from Anton Chekhov the Complete Collection (2018).

Dose of Dr. Gonzo

“There was an awful suspicion in my mind that I’d finally gone over the hump, and the worst thing about it was that I didn’t feel tragic at all, but only weary, and sort of comfortably detached.”

-Hunter S. Thompson-

Some Thoughts on Solitary Confinement

When Life Becomes a Solitary State of Mind

Solitary confinement is a term you’d usually associate with the criminal justice system, but as we roll into the final months of 2020 and rapidly approach the one year mark of Covid solitary confinement is something that most of us now have some sort of experience with.

Whether it is a lock down, a self-quarantine, remote work (or job loss), distance learning, or some other form of isolation most of us have probably felt alone at one point in time or another over the past eight months. We have an abundance of social media communication tools available to us, but the Grams, Twits, Toks, Times, Books and numerous other apps just don’t seem to replace a face to face conversation with beers in hand and music on a jukebox. This “new normal” that has so many of us separated from friends, family, and loved ones has me thinking about seclusion and how it can be compared to solitary confinement.

The topic of conversation will focus on the idea of solitary confinement, not so much in a criminal justice sense, but as a state of mind. I’d like to hear what you have to say on the topic.


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