Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Alternately titled “The Lady with the Dog” or “The Lady with the Little Dog,” this story treats the theme of adultery, akin to Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1875-1877; English translation, 1886), and has a heroine with the same first name. Yet whereas Tolstoy pursues and punishes his Anna for having violated a social and moral law, Chekhov treats his Anna gently and compassionately in one of his most accomplished tales.
The plot can be briefly summarized. The banker Dmitry Dmitrich Gurov, a married but philandering man of almost forty, spends a vacation alone in the seaside resort of Yalta, where he meets and skillfully seduces a much younger lady, Anna Sergeyevna, who is also on holiday without her spouse. Their first encounter leads to a furtive and sporadic liaison, with Anna, who lives in a provincial town, having trysts with him in Moscow once every two or three months. Now deeply in love, the couple faces an unpredictable future. Chekhov ends the story on this indeterminate note.
Like a play, the narrative is divided into four parts, each of which deftly dramatizes a different phase of Anna and Dmitry’s romance. The first, of course, deals with their meeting in Yalta. The reader makes Dmitry’s acquaintance as a type: He is a cold-blooded roué, contemptuous of women as easy conquests yet compulsively erotic. He approaches Anna by fondling her dog, discovers that Anna is a gentlewoman who, like himself, is bored on holiday, and finds himself charmed by her shyness, slimness, and “lovely gray eyes.”...
(The entire section is 638 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The story begins with a description of a bored banker, Dmitrii Gurov, on vacation in the southern Russian city of Yalta. Idly attentive toward the other vacationers, Gurov takes special interest in a recent arrival to the resort town, a young woman named Anna Sergeevna von Diederitz, who strolls along the embankment with her little dog. Judging from her appearance, Gurov decides that she is a married woman alone and bored on her vacation. Although he too is married, he has had many affairs, and he becomes excited by the prospect of having a brief affair with this stranger. Beckoning her dog toward him, he uses the pet as an excuse to strike up a conversation with her, and within a short time they develop an easy air of companionship.
Anton Chekhov next depicts the pair after a week has passed. It is a warm, windy day, and the two go down to the pier to watch a ship come in. As the crowd around the ship gradually dissipates, Gurov asks Anna Sergeevna if she wishes to go for a ride. Suddenly, on an impulse, he embraces her and kisses her. He then suggests that they go to her room. The next scene portrays Anna Sergeevna and Gurov in her room; they have just made love for the first time. She is distraught because she feels guilty, not only because she has deceived her husband but also because she has discovered that she has been deceiving herself for a long time. She tells Gurov that she was twenty when she married her husband and has since realized that he is nothing but a flunky. Anna Sergeevna, on the other hand, wants to live, to experience life. Now she believes that her infidelity has proved her to be a petty, vulgar woman and that Gurov will not respect her. Gurov listens to this confession with an attitude of boredom and irritation. He feels that her repentance is unexpected and out of place. Nevertheless, he comforts her, and within a short time her gaiety returns.
They leave the hotel and drive to Oreanda, a scenic spot outside Yalta. There they gaze in silence at the sea and listen to its incessant, muffled sound. Chekhov writes that in the constancy of this noise and in the sea’s calm indifference to human life and death there perhaps lies a pledge of eternal salvation, of uninterrupted perfection. Listening to this sound in the company of an...
(The entire section is 934 words.)