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A symbol can refer to a particular object, character or action, and this excellent short story contains a number of different symbols that can be considered to be both cultural and, at the same time, universal. This is perhaps most clearly seen when Gurov returns to Moscow after spending his holidays with Anna Sergeyevna away from the city. Although initially he anticipates the joys he will experience again in his home city and feels that he will quickly forget Anna Segeyevna, he finds instead that his recent experience with her only serves to highlight the way that the activities that he and his friends engage in point towards a massive emptiness and inability to communicate about what is really important. Note what the author says in the following quote:
The rage for card-playing, the gluttony, the drunkenness, the continual talk always about the same thing. Useless pursuits and conversations always about the same things absorb the better part of one's time, the better part of one's strength, and in the end there is left a life grovelling and curtailed, worthless and trivial, and there is no escaping or getting away from it--just as though one were in a madhouse or a prison.
The activities of Gurov and his contemporaries--the gambling, the eating and the drink--are symbolic of a bigger and more disturbing kind of emptiness that Gurov finds very oppressive and is something that he feels entrapped by. This is of course a very important symbol as it makes him relish the freedom that he finds in his relationship with Anna Sergeyevna. This is a universal symbol as every generation engages in a series of similar activities to prevent them dwelling on their own emptiness.
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