The Lady with the Pet Dog


There is a great number of writers that create short stories and novels about different aspects of real and fiction life. As a result, a modern reader has a tremendous variety of authors to read and virtual worlds to investigate and analyze. However, it is always beneficial to turn to classical pieces of literature because of their significant cultural, moral, and aesthetic value. Classical writers typically discuss the things that are of lasting importance and always exist in the society, such as different internal and external conflicts that put protagonists in situations in which they face difficult choices. Consequently, classical literature is not only entertainment, but a reflection of the ever-existing issues in social life, the problems of self-identification, love, moral choices, and obligations. One of the writers that made a considerable contribution to the world classical literature is a Russian story writer, playwright, and novelist Anton Chekhov. One of his great gifts is the ability to present complicated philosophic aspects of life and its complex situations in short stories. This paper analyzes his short story “The Lady with the Pet Dog” giving special attention to the protagonist Dmitri Dmitritch Gurov. It investigates the character traits of the main character and the author’s methods of portraying his nature with different stylistic means. The analysis suggests that Anton Chekhov uses different variations of the setting, the aspects of the theme of the story, and different symbols to unfold the unexpected plot of the main character’s love. This investigation is useful for people interested in the practical use of stylistic and language means such as writers, playwrights, and journalists.


The Main Character

In “The Lady with the Pet Dog”, the author portrayed the life of a middle-aged man dissatisfied with his daily routine and surprisingly falling in love during one of his typical flirting episodes with women. Dmitri Dmitritch Gurov, the protagonist, is a man, whose family life and, therefore, fate have been decided by the others. As the author characterizes it, “He had been married young, … and by now his wife seemed half as old again as he… he secretly considered her unintelligent, narrow, inelegant, was afraid of her, and did not like to be at home”. Thus, he is a man pressured by the consequences of someone else’s decision, which is why he is tormented by his own family life and seeks any possibility escaping it. Luckily, Dmitri Gurov has a talent, which is his almost mystical ability to attract women. Despite the fact that he criticizes them and identifies them as “the lower race”, he can hardly spend a couple of days without their attention and seeks romances as a love hunter. This feature is his “outstanding trait of traits”, which brakes unexpectedly as he falls in love with a lady with a dog. Vacationing at a resort by the seaside, he was fed up by the fortnight spent in a moderate resting regime and was intrigued by a female newcomer. Thus, his initial motivation that drove his behavior was a search for another woman to use as a means of entertainment in his gray and dull days. Dmitri Gurov constantly seeks women because of the need to fix the lack of spiritual balance in his life. To his great surprise, he finds a woman that brings him to life and becomes a sense of his life though associated with big troubles.

At the same time, it needs saying that Dmitri Gurov is not a tactless man and knows how to charm a woman. The authors description makes him a “lady-killer”, “in the company of women he felt free, and knew what to say to them and how to behave; and he was at ease with them even when he was silent … in his whole nature, there was something attractive and elusive which allured women and disposed them in his favour”. The irony of his life is that his wife does not believe that he is capable of cheating and having affairs with other women. However, his affairs are a regular thing, which is why he seems to be addicted to such way of life and feels no regret for his deeds and the women he has affairs with. Moreover, his affairs were associated with countless memories involving different women, “careless, good-natured women … and of women like his wife who loved without any genuine feeling … and of two or three others, very beautiful, cold women”. At the same time, the girl with the dog does not seem to be typical for his list of women that leads to intrigue and the will to possess that drives him into the trap. Lastly, there is a need to say that despite Dmitri Gurov being aware of his talent he is surprised by the fact that women like him. However, they are not happy with him even though they are pleased by the affairs and seem to enjoy his company. “They loved in him not himself, but the man created by their imagination”, which is why he feels anything but not love either. Therefore, in his escape from the unbearable family life Dmitri Gurov lives lives of other men getting timely relief until he falls in love and starts living another, happy, secret life.

The Setting and Symbols

Depending on the time of the story, the setting highlights the mood of the protagonist whereas its symbols serve as intensifiers of his reflections about life and the situations he finds oneself. “The lady with the Pet Dog” is a story in which the setting is more than a mere background. Thus, the seaside surrounding with parks reflects Gurov’s feeling of dullness and a search for new feelings. As in the case with his family, the seaside seemed to be anice place but bored him, which is why it was easy to intrigue his with something new. In this sense, the white dog serves as a symbol similar to a white rabbit that leads him to an unexpected path away from his initial fate. The dog is also a white spot that attracts the character’s attention as he comes to S city and observes the Von Diderits mansion. Moreover, it contrasts with the image of “a long grey fence adorned with nails” that symbolizes the woman’s captivity. Furthermore, when Gurov meets his beloved at the theater, he is surprised with oneself and astonished by the environment where he is. His thoughts “Oh, heavens! Why are these people here and this orchestra!” indicate that his feelings are strong and driven only by emotions as he pays no attention to anything else. The contrast of a huge crowd, banging orchestral music, and the feeling of the two people intensifies the power of their feeling stating that love in their hearts speaks louder than any orchestra. At this point, through the symbolic act of their conversation the author lets the reader understand that the secrecy between them initiates another secret part of their lives. Another powerful symbol is the play of colors, because just as he described the contrast of a white dog and a grey fence, the author typically describes the secret relationship of the couple in a dark setting. For instance, there are narrow, direct indicators of it, “it was too dark to see people’s faces”. And indirect ones, leading to a broader conclusion, “every man had his real, most interesting life under the cover of secrecy and under the cover of night”. Therefore, the unity of the setting and the symbols intensify the inner state of the characters.

The Theme of the Story

The theme of “The Lady with the Pet Dog” blends such aspects as love, dissatisfaction with one’s life, isolation, reputation, prejudice, and fate against free will displayed through the life of Dmitri Gurov and his beloved Anna. In literary fiction, such aspect as a theme is often a set of events summarized more elaborately at the end of the story and, therefore, forming a moral or a message. However, Anton Chekov creates a complex thematic field that makes his short story unique. Thus, Gurov is dissatisfied with his life, isolated in his secret passion, and tormented by social prejudices and restrictions of such affairs despite the last one resurrecting his interest to life. His feelings and situation are shared by Anna, the lady with the pet dog, who sincerely loves him. Importantly, her feelings are real unlike those of the other women of Dmitri Gurov. Lastly, the author depicts that having such similarities the two people decide to break social norms and pursue happiness together, which is why both of them are progressive and free-thinking individuals. Nevertheless, Chekov gives the reader the right to decide whether such brave deeds against social norms should be benefited with a future official marriage or remain a secret.


Summarizing the presented information, the paper concludes that the author skillfully used his talent for synthesizing the setting, the theme of the story, and its symbols and, therefore, giving a comprehensive characterization of the protagonist. Thus, a pressured and dissatisfied middle-aged man finds a young woman that shares his views and faith. The setting of the story reflects such aspects as dissatisfaction, dullness, absence of action and preferred secrecy in action, and thoughts of Dmitri Gurov. Moreover, the author uses various symbols such as colors and objects to intensify such themes as moral freedom, happiness, and boredom. Similarly, they reflect Gurov’s attitude towards different phenomena. Lastly, the themes of the short story include a broad range of subjects, such as love, dissatisfaction with one’s life, isolation, prejudice, and other, exploring the character of Dmitri Gurov. Nevertheless, despite the presented figure of a man aspiring for his individual happiness against social standards the author gives the reader the right for a final decision of the man’s destiny.

Feb 9, 2020 in Research
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