A young aspiring male student finds himself in a difficult situation. While working on his dissertation he is interrupted by a young women, asking him to walk her home. He decides it is best and complies with her request. It is later decided the two should marry but it is against the young man's wishes. A great idea comes to the man regarding their marriage, but it is a little too late.
When Ivan Dmitritch's wife, Masha, invests her money in the lottery, he can help but feel it is a foolish waste of time. However, having read through the rest of the paper, he agrees to check the numbers for his wife at her request. To his astonishment, the series number of Masha's lottery ticket matches the winning series number. Without checking the rest of the number needed to win, both husband and wife quickly begin to fantasize about what they would do if they won the lottery. Their happy thoughts quickly turn to anger and hostility towards one another as they become greedy over the money. It is only then that Ivan consents to checking the final number to see whether or not their musings would come true.
Semyon and a young man, along with three other ferrymen, live out their days on a desolate riverbank in Siberia, after being exiled from their countries for various crimes. Their environment is freezing cold and barren, providing nothing about which to be happy. However, Semyon seems content with his life, arguing that if he wants nothing he will never be disappointed. The young man, on the other hand, is miserable and hopes that his wife and mother will soon come visit him. Semyon warns the young man that he will not survive in exile if he begins to hope for things, using as an example a gentleman who became overtaken by wants while in exile. As the young man grapples with his new life, the gentleman from Semyon's cautionary tale arrives, complicating his thoughts about his exile even more.