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Character Analysis in The Lady with the Pet Dog

Gurov: Dmitrii Dmitrich Gurov is a forty-year-old man living in Moscow with his wife and family. He is unhappy. Gurov’s wife, chosen for him by his parents, is a nuisance to him. The numerous affairs he engages in are unfulfilling, causing him to take on a coldly negative view of women. Gurov’s encounter with Anna in Yalta proves to be revelatory. When they part ways he finds himself, for the first time in his life, in a state of genuine lovesickness. His iciness gives way and Gurov finds himself tumbling into new emotional depths. These developments are, in a way, tragic because they reveal the banality and sadness of his life.

Anna: Anna Sergeevna von Diederitz is a young woman of twenty. Like Gurov, she is locked in an unhappy marriage. Her husband is a provincial officer whose company she loathes. Feeling stifled by her life, Anna claims to be suffering from an illness as an excuse to visit Yalta. When Anna and Gurov fall into an affair, Anna is stricken by feelings of guilt. Because of the rules of Russian society, she deems herself a “fallen woman” for having slept with Gurov. Despite her guilt, Anna is stirred by her experiences with Gurov. When Gurov returns to find Anna again, she is touched. Though the two lovers are doomed, she has tasted the vivacity she was seeking.

Character Analysis Examples in The Lady with the Pet Dog:

Part I

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"Anna Sergeyevna..."   (Part I)

In Russian, and many other Slavic cultures, it is common to address someone by their first name and their patronymic, an equivalent to the American middle name, but derived from the father's first name--in Anna's case, Sergey. Interestingly, she does not tell Gurov her last name, which perhaps has some significance on why she has decided to meet with Gurov even though she is married.

"But at every fresh meeting..."   (Part I)

In this passage, Chekhov tells us more about Gurov's cynical yet complicated nature. While Gurov has learned that problems inevitably result from his affairs, he continues to forget these lessons whenever he meets a new, interesting woman.

"it wouldn't be amiss to make her acquaintance..."   (Part I)

Although Chekhov doesn’t explicitly state this, the language Gurov uses makes it clear that he not only intends to have an affair with the lady, but he also doesn’t consider doing so anything beyond an entertaining diversion from his boredom. This statement presents Gurov as a womanizer who doesn’t consider the consequences of his actions.

"so he had unintentionally deceived her. . . ...."   (Part II)

Anna's leaving has prompted a variety of emotions in Gurov--notably, the slight remorse suggests something different from his previous casual affairs. However, we do learn that while Gurov was intentionally affectionate and attentive to Anna for the purposes of the seduction, Chekhov indicates that there may be some regret at this deception--especially considering Gurov's earlier thoughts on the inherent beauty of things.

"but for the tears in her eyes..."   (Part II)

While Chekhov clearly shows that Gurov doesn't care for Anna's questions or behavior---thinking that she perhaps is exaggerating---at the moment, we do see that he notices that she is experiencing real unhappiness and moves to comfort her.

"I was fired by curiosity..."   (Part II)

Chekhov reveals much about Anna in this passage as she opens up to Gurov in an attempt to explain herself. We learn that she has deliberately come to Yalta in order to escape her husband, who she doesn't particularly respect, and to find a new experience that will help her feel something new. However, we can see that her guilt at having the affair somewhat overwhelms her while Gurov appears largely unaffected by it.

"There was a water-melon on the table..."   (Part II)

Anna’s statement is really a question because she expects a response from Gurov. However, Gurov has had so many affairs that he doesn’t think of the moral implications of his actions because he expected it to happen and doesn’t want to discuss it. By waiting such a long time to respond, Gurov demonstrates his insensitivity to her agitation and his apathy towards questions of morality.

"it was strange and inappropriate..."   (Part II)

Chekhov again contrasts the two characters by showing how Anna feels and reacts after their affair compared to how Gurov does. While Anna regards the event as immoral and sinful behavior, Gurov finds her attitude strange and the notion that she has somehow disgraced herself ridiculous--likely due to his having never taken affairs very seriously.

"What different people one meets in the world!..."   (Part II)

At this point, Gurov takes a moment to reflect on how Anna is different from all of the other women that have been in his life. While this comment could be attributed to Gurov's promiscuous attitude, it more likely foreshadows the future of their relationship and mutual attraction.

"her eyes were shining..."   (Part II)

Anna has realized that her husband isn't coming and feels a surge of freedom. Chekhov uses this description to indicate that she knows what Gurov wants from her, and that she has decided to comply at this point. The following description of her nervous and giddy behavior further again reminds us of her innocence and how this is likely a new experience for her.

"that was nothing to Gurov..."   (Part III)

Whereas previously in the story Gurov cared very much about who was around them, in this scene we see that he has finally rid himself of the barriers between his public and private life---a theme that Chekhov explores in this story. Regardless of who is watching, Gurov wants to show Anna how much he cares for her.

"he thought how lovely she was..."   (Part III)

Chekhov shows us how Gurov finally realizes how much he loves Anna by contrasting Gurov's love for Anna with the less beautiful things in the theater. Realizing his love, Gurov understands that to pretend anything else matters more than Anna is to deceive himself.

"But how far they were still from the end..."   (Part III)

Gurov's reaction here sharply contrasts with how neatly he thought their affair had ended when she left Yalta. Not only does Chekhov show us how Gurov's attitude towards Anna has changed in this section, but he also reveals how Gurov will continue to pursue her since he believes their story isn't finished. Chekhov revisits this idea of uncertainty at the end of the story.

"These words, so ordinary, for some reason moved Gurov to indignation..."   (Part III)

Eventually, Gurov can't keep his private and public life separated and tries to tell a friend about Anna. The lackluster reaction fuels Gurov's rant against the people and behavior that he has so often associated with. This is less Gurov superficially condemning such things and more his finding them devoid of any real meaning or purpose. This paragraph marks another significant shift in his character as he realizes that his priorities have changed.

"one like her...."   (Part III)

In this paragraph, we notice a marked shift in Gurov’s attitude. While earlier in the story, he was certain his affair with Anna would not affect him in a meaningful way, we now see that Gurov can’t stop thinking of her. This shift drives the action of the second half of the story, as Gurov realizes that Anna Sergeyevna means more to him than he had previously thought.

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