What is a character analysis of Dmitri Gurov in Chekhov's "The Lady with the Pet Dog"?
Also called "The Lady with the Dog."
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Being a skillful short story writer, Chekhov establishes Gurov's character traits in the opening paragraphs of Part I. Gurov's observations are first described. This (1) introduces the co-protagonist, Anna, and (2) establishes the story as a psychological one: psychological narratives are interested in cognitive processes and motivations of the characters more than in plot and action. Chekhov then gives a brief glimpse of Gurov's social mores (a glimpse almost immediately contradicted). Gurov tells himself that since "'the lady with the dog'" is alone, without friends or family present, it is improper to approach her:
"If she is here alone without a husband or friends, it wouldn't be amiss to make her acquaintance," Gurov reflected.
Gurov is describe in terms of his attainments, accomplishments and his opinions about his wife and women in general: he is not described by physical traits except to say he is "under forty." This supports the psychological structure of the story. His social mores are contradicted when the extent of his unfaithfulness and the comfort and ease he finds among women are described. His mores are again contradicted when he contrives to start up a conversation with Anna through attentions to her dog (after she seemingly singled him out by being seated next to him (by request?) at supper one evening.
From these details, Chekhov establishes Gurov's character. He is judgemental of women and awkward among men. He can't control his impulses even though morality requires it, social mores expect it, and his marriage demands it. He lives with personal contradictions without any apparent awareness or discomfort: the contradictions are his feelings that women are "'the lower race'" but that with "women he felt free, and knew ... how to behave ...." Gurov is dedicated and successful in work, however, even though he gave up his first loves of art and opera singing for a practical life after having "been married young":
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.
He is gregarious and sociable though boring easily with the intricacy of intimate friendships. He gives them up when he feels them burdensome, only to begin another relationship again. Psychologically, this suggests a person interested only in superficialities or a person so afflicted with lost dreams and abandoned chances that he has no endurance for emotional connectedness: he gave up opera singing after training for it and he had "[e]xperience often repeated, truly bitter experience." This psychological analysis of Gurov's character on this point is in keeping with the psychological nature of the story. Finally, when under the cloak of secrecy, such as the summer resort at Yalta, he is a risk taker and is coercive to at least some extent as illustrated by his manipulation of Anna's dog in the restaurant.
The psychological dynamic of the story is how this character description of Gurov accords with the resolution where Gurov seems to have finally connected with himself and with Anna. The quietly echoing question of the story's end is whether Gurov's feelings are genuine and enduring or whether he will become bored with this relationship and later call it another "truly bitter experience."
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