Themes in The Lady with the Pet Dog
In an interesting moment of reflection, Gurov (read: Chekhov) reflects on the value of the world’s inherent, natural beauty and the difficulty of attaining it. This beauty, he remarks, is lost and becomes ugly when people lose sight of it and forget their basic dignity, such as deceiving others, waging war, etc. This passage shows us how Chekhov's characters wish to be free of the deceit marring their relationship in order to aspire to the beauty and dignity described here.
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.
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.
Chekhov reveals how Gurov now understands that his life has two aspects: the public, and the private. Gurov’s public life consists of things he pretends are valuable (his work, leisure, family life, and attitude towards women) while his private life contains his true beliefs, feelings, and desires, hidden from others. Having realized this, Gurov understands that everyone has public lives that they create to protect their true selves from others, and he wonders if this explains why everyone is so concerned with personal privacy.