The Lady with the Dog is one of Anton Chekhov’s most recognized and surely one of his most appreciated stories. It displays Chekhov’s writing style quite well as he is a subtle author who is great at integrating intensity throughout his stories. He brings to life the characters feelings without using too many words to describe them which makes the story even more captivating to the reader. The main theme of this short story is marriage, fidelity and true love. Gurov, a known womanizer, is married to a woman he does not love. He cheats on her endlessly and spends significant time away from home. Since his experience with women and love are not very conventional to say the least, Gurov develops a significant hatred for woman. One day, he meets a married woman named Anna who is also left unfulfilled by her relationship. That first meeting with Anna gives Gurov hope and leads to think she might possibly change him for the better. The lady with the Dog conceptualizes modern expectations of marriage and fidelity predefined by our society and reveals that real love is hard to find and even harder to maintain. Love is a vague but beautiful notion and there is no secret formula to obtain it, some people find love at first sight while others get married too soon and realize they aren’t fully dedicated to their relationship. This theory is explored in The Lady with the Dog throughout Gurov’s struggle with accepting the reality of his seemingly broken marriage and finding someone that genuinely captivates him and makes him reconsider his false ideals.
Both characters in this short story are married but neither of them is happy with their marriage, which in turn makes them quite open to finding true love. Although their marital status is the same, the most significant difference between the two is in the way they portray their infidelity. While Anna shows remorse and the thought of her husband keeps her from destroying her marriage, Gurov has been having affairs for years yet he feels trapped in his marriage and hates it so much he prefers being away from home. In fact, the only thing keeping his relationship together is his 12-year-old daughter. Gurov has been married for a long time, but his relationship is not very solid, and he is not trying to solve everything. Instead, he prefers to stay away from home and escape his reality. He has a very sexist and ancient view of society and he cheats on his wife repeatedly to keep his loneliness hidden beneath the surface. The story sets as Gurov is about to meet yet another female friend and seduces her into keeping him company. This rendezvous is a moment of deception for Gurov as he soon finds out that Anna is nothing like any of his previous conquests.
Furthermore, Dmitri Gurov’s honest opinion of women is portrayed within the very first part of the story and it is not a good one. He thinks all women are stupid and he even cheats on his own wife all the time. He often talks about her in a degrading way. “She read a great deal, used phonetic spelling, called him husband, not Dmitri, but Dimitri, and he secretly considered her unintelligent, narrow, inelegant, was afraid of her, and did not like to be home”. He also mentions women in general as “The Lower Race.” He is the definition of a misogynist and a sexist. Although Gurov seems like a horrible person, he is in fact a great man with a much greater heart. Unfortunately for him, he had never met the right woman to open his heart up to and had never experienced the delicacies of true love. After meeting Anna, this would all start to change. During the days following the pair’s first encounter, Gurov’s entire perspective quickly became different. For the first time in his life, his supposed interest in someone was not a façade. This becomes apparent to the reader, when not too long after the two go their separate ways, Gurov starts to miss Anna and his days become unbearable without her because she is all he can think about. Her memory follows him all the way to Moscow. His misogynistic way of thinking also begins to fade as Gurov is falling in love.
Finally, Gurov is very hypocritical, he cannot live without women, yet he qualifies them as inferior to men. He falls within the social etiquette of a Russian man, he practices the same lifestyle as any other Russian man, he gets married, has a family and even goes to lengths to cheat on his wife. Nonetheless, he remains deeply unsatisfied. The first time he meets Anna, Gurov assumes that his relationship with her will be like any other affair he’s had. He soon comes to terms with the fact that Anna is completely different, she is smart, and she isn’t as easy or naïve as Gurov is used to. A subtle display of Gurov’s attitude change towards woman is when he calls Anna “pathetic” despite feeling exceptionally attracted to her. While Gurov and Anna’s relationship seems like an escape from reality, it is clear to the reader that they both wish their realities were quite different. The story ends on a note of uncertainty as Gurov realizes he is living two lives: one open where he has a good marriage and a happy family and a secret life where he is disloyal and has multiple affairs behind his wife’s back. “He had two lives: an apparent one, seen and known by all who needed it, filled with conventional truth and conventional deceit, which perfectly resembled the lives of his acquaintances and friends, and another that went on in secret… everything that he found important, interesting, necessary, in which he was sincere and did not deceive himself… occurred in secret from other. While the narrative comes to an end, the story leads to believe that this is only the beginning for Anna and Gurov. The only way for the couple to be happy is to acknowledge that they can’t truly be together until they let go of their fears and start a new life. Otherwise, they will forever be stuck in their past and they will never find happiness in their incredible relationship unless they start to enjoy it openly.
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