Part I

IT was said that a new person had appeared on the sea-front: a lady with a little dog. Dmitri Dmitritch Gurov, who had by then been a fortnight at Yalta, and so was fairly at home there, had begun to take an interest in new arrivals. Sitting in Verney's pavilion, he saw, walking on the sea-front, a fair-haired young lady of medium height, wearing a beret; a white Pomeranian dog was running behind her.

And afterwards he met her in the public gardens and in the square several times a day. She was walking alone, always wearing the same beret, and always with the same white dog; no one knew who she was, and every one called her simply "the lady with the dog."

"If she is here alone without a husband or friends, it wouldn't be amiss to make her acquaintance," Gurov reflected.

He was under forty, but he had a daughter already twelve years old, and two sons at school. He had been married young, when he was a student in his second year, and by now his wife seemed half as old again as he. She was a tall, erect woman with dark eyebrows, staid and dignified, and, as she said of herself, intellectual. She read a great deal, used phonetic spelling, called her husband, not Dmitri, but Dimitri, and he secretly considered her unintelligent, narrow, inelegant, was afraid of her, and did not like to be at home. He had begun being unfaithful to her long ago--had been unfaithful to her often, and, probably on that account, almost always spoke ill of women, and when they were talked about in his presence, used to call them "the lower race."

It seemed to him that he had been so schooled by bitter experience that he might call them what he liked, and yet he could not get on for two days together without "the lower race." In the society of men he was bored and not himself, with them he was cold and uncommunicative; but when he was 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 appearance, in his character, in his whole nature, there was something attractive and elusive which allured women and disposed them in his favour; he knew that, and some force seemed to draw him, too, to them.

Experience often repeated, truly bitter experience, had taught him long ago that with decent people, especially Moscow people--always slow to move and irresolute--every intimacy, which at first so agreeably diversifies life and appears a light and charming adventure, inevitably grows into a regular problem of extreme intricacy, and in the long run the situation becomes unbearable. But at every fresh meeting with an interesting woman this experience seemed to slip out of his memory, and he was eager for life, and everything seemed simple and amusing.

One evening he was dining in the gardens, and the lady in the beret came up slowly to take the next table. Her expression, her gait, her dress, and the way she did her hair told him that she was a lady, that she was married, that she was in Yalta for the first time and alone, and that she was dull there. . . . The stories told of the immorality in such places as Yalta are to a great extent untrue; he despised them, and knew that such stories were for the most part made up by persons who would themselves have been glad to sin if they had been able; but when the lady sat down at the next table three paces from him, he remembered these tales of easy conquests, of trips to the mountains, and the tempting thought of a swift, fleeting love affair, a romance with an unknown woman, whose name he did not know, suddenly took possession of him.

He beckoned coaxingly to the Pomeranian, and when the dog came up to him he shook his finger at it. The Pomeranian growled: Gurov shook his finger at it again.

The lady looked at him and at once dropped her eyes.

"He doesn't bite," she said, and blushed.

"May I give him a bone?" he asked; and when she nodded he asked courteously, "Have you been long in Yalta?"

"Five days."

"And I have already dragged out a fortnight here."

There was a brief silence.

"Time goes fast, and yet it is so dull here!" she said, not looking at him.

"That's only the fashion to say it is dull here. A provincial will live in Belyov or Zhidra and not be dull, and when he comes here it's 'Oh, the dulness! Oh, the dust!' One would think he came from Grenada."

She laughed. Then both continued eating in silence, like strangers, but after dinner they walked side by side; and there sprang up between them the light jesting conversation of people who are free and satisfied, to whom it does not matter where they go or what they talk about. They walked and talked of the strange light on the sea: the water was of a soft warm lilac hue, and there was a golden streak from the moon upon it. They talked of how sultry it was after a hot day. Gurov told her that he came from Moscow, that he had taken his degree in Arts, but had a post in a bank; that he had trained as an opera-singer, but had given it up, that he owned two houses in Moscow. . . . And from her he learnt that she had grown up in Petersburg, but had lived in S---- since her marriage two years before, that she was staying another month in Yalta, and that her husband, who needed a holiday too, might perhaps come and fetch her. She was not sure whether her husband had a post in a Crown Department or under the Provincial Council--and was amused by her own ignorance. And Gurov learnt, too, that she was called Anna Sergeyevna.

Afterwards he thought about her in his room at the hotel--thought she would certainly meet him next day; it would be sure to happen. As he got into bed he thought how lately she had been a girl at school, doing lessons like his own daughter; he recalled the diffidence, the angularity, that was still manifest in her laugh and her manner of talking with a stranger. This must have been the first time in her life she had been alone in surroundings in which she was followed, looked at, and spoken to merely from a secret motive which she could hardly fail to guess. He recalled her slender, delicate neck, her lovely grey eyes.

"There's something pathetic about her, anyway," he thought, and fell asleep.

Footnotes

  1. Why are Moscow people included in this description of Gurov's experience?

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. The use of this word might cause readers to believe that Gurov has formed a negative impression of Anna Sergeyevna. However, Gurov is actually suggesting that despite her youth and laughter, she is somehow unhappy.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. The lady’s quick reaction to avoid meeting Gurov's gaze gives a very strong initial impression of a woman who is young, relatively innocent, and married. Note how Chekhov continues to use subtle and descriptive techniques to contrast the older and cynical Gurov with the young and innocent lady.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. 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.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. Chekhov's omission of the name of Anna Sergeyevna's hometown is characteristic of Russian censorship. Russian authors had to submit their work to a the censors before it could be published, and often the names of certain towns, officials, or other sensitive matter was redacted.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. 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.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. Literally translated from the Russian, this means "she never used the 'hard sign' in letters." The hard sign (ъ) is a feature of the Russian alphabet. This was characteristic of a progressive intellectual at the time and anticipated the reform of the Russian alphabet.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. At this point, the dog has been referred to as a *pet* dog, a *little* dog, and now, simply, the dog. The original Russian uses the word собачка (*sobachka*), which is a diminutive form of the standard word for dog. The dog's role is the story is limited and primarily serves as a way for Gurov to use it to his own advantage in order to introduce himself to the lady.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. This translation is a little misleading since Gurov hasn't met the lady yet. Instead, the original Russian word встречал (*vstrechal*) has a connotation of *encountering* someone without actually interacting with them.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. At this point, Chekhov gives us special access to Gurov’s thoughts, a point of view called limited third person perspective. Since we’re only seeing what Gurov thinks, this limits the perspective somewhat. Chekhov continues to narrate from this perspective for most of the story; however, there are moments when he narrates from a fully omniscient perspective, as well as a notable change towards the end when we are able to know what a character besides Gurov is thinking.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. 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.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. Chekhov efficiently sets the scene with this opening line by identifying the setting as a seaside resort, implying that the resort is a little boring (since the appearance of a new person is novel), and strongly suggesting that the woman is alone without a human companion. He uses these factors to foreshadow the inevitable meeting between Gurov and the lady with the little dog.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor