What are the kinds of binary oppositions in "The Lady With the Pet Dog"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The principal binary opposition in this text is that of male/female. Gurov is of course a male and he is shown to be predatory in his amorous affections, and initially he sees the poor Anna as just another one of his "conquests." As a male, Gurov is shown to operate in a world where males certainly have much more freedom and are able to love and be loved with impunity and certainly without commitment or having to worry about the long-term consequences of such dalliances.

This of course presents a further and much more important binary opposition into the mix, which is selfish love/sacrificial love. Note how Gurov as a character moves away from being a completely disinterested, hedonistic and pleasure-seeking individual to being somebody who recognises that he actually loves Anna sacrificially, as this quote from near the end of the story makes clear:

Anna Sergeyevna and he loved each other like people very close and akin, like husband and wife, like tender friends; it seemed to them that fate itself had meant them for one another, and they could not understand why he had a wife and she a husband; and it was as though they were a pair of birds of passage, caught and forced to live in different cages.

The binary opposition of selfish vs. sacrificial love that is presented to us through Gurov and Anna respectively is therefore shown to highlight how much Gurov changes and develops as a character through the course of the story.


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