The Lady with the Dog by Anton Chekhov
In The Lady with the Dog by Anton Chekhov we have the theme of infidelity, trust, guilt, respect, compassion, ego, escape, love and secrecy. Taken from his The Complete Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Chekhov may be exploring the theme of infidelity and trust. Gurov though he is married has been unfaithful to his wife on several occasions which suggests that he cannot be trusted. He pays no heed to any feelings that his wife may have and considers her to be a burden rather than being somebody that he can love. Throughout his time in Yalta Gurov focuses on trying to get Anna’s attention in order that he can pursue a relationship with her. Though he succeeds and believes that she will be like the other women he has had relationships with Gurov never forgets Anna. When she returns home she takes a piece of Gurov’s heart with him. For the first time in his life Gurov has spent time with a woman who means something to him. Even though he is a married man he has fallen in love with Anna and she with him. It might also be important to remember that at the beginning of their relationship Gurov had no intention of falling in love with Anna and if anything showed her a lack of compassion when she was crying in her bedroom.
Though Gurov has fallen in love it does not necessarily mean that he can be trusted. His record shows that he can’t though Anna is blind to this. What is also noticeable is the fact that Gurov feels no guilt for his actions. It is as though Gurov looks at his infidelities as a game he likes to play, knowing that each indiscretion will eventually come to an end without him either feeling guilty or his wife finding out. Some critics may suggest that Gurov is self-centred and selfish caring for nobody but himself. It is also difficult to judge Gurov’s marriage as Chekhov only gives a brief insight into it. Though it is clear that Gurov is unhappy. However he has the option of leaving his wife and living his life as he sees fit though this is not a route that Gurov takes. He prefers to live his life with his wife while at the same time having brief liaisons with various women. All of whom Gurov is able to forget with the exception of Anna.
It may also be a case that Gurov is driven by his ego and that he enjoys an element of control over the women that he commits adultery with. So unhappy is he with his life he is able (while being unfaithful) to control the women or at least control the image he would like the women to see. At no stage is there a sense that Gurov is showing any of the women his real side or his public side. While being unfaithful Gurov is living out a dream of how he would like to live his life. In essence Gurov likes to think of himself as somewhat of a playboy though the reality is very different. He is a married man with young children. Who lives a relatively boring life working in a bank. It is also possible that the women that Gurov sees are not seeking realism but rather see Gurov as an avenue of escape. For a brief moment in time Gurov fulfils the women’s needs just as they fulfil his. If anything the women may be as unhappy with their lives as Gurov is with his and just as Gurov cannot remember most of the women it is also possible that many of the women that Gurov has had a brief relationship with also don’t remember him.
The ending of the story is also interesting as Chekhov appears to be exploring the theme of secrecy. While in Moscow nobody knows that Gurov is visiting Anna in her hotel. What is also striking about Anna and Gurov’s meetings is the fact that they both proclaim to love one another though are also fully conscious of the difficulties that they face. However rather than end their affair and forget about each other both decide to continue their relationship, which may be impractical, till they find a way to finally be with each other. Neither Anna nor Gurov have any idea how they will continue to see each other yet like two young lovers they do not consider the practicalities of their actions. They are both overpowered by their love for each other that nothing matters apart from them both being able to continue to see one another. Though some critics might suggest that all will be well for Anna and Gurov the reality is that they are causing pain to others whether they like it or not. Gurov’s wife and children will be affected as to will Anna’s husband. Though neither Anna nor Gurov may love their partners they will nonetheless be affected by their spouse’s actions. Anna and Gurov’s love for each other will come at a price something that neither Anna nor Gurov appear to be aware of.