How does the paragraph quoted below relate to Anna and Gurnov in Chekhov's "The Lady with the Pet Dog"?"When they got out of the carriage at Oreanda they sat down on a bench not far from the...

How does the paragraph quoted below relate to Anna and Gurnov in Chekhov's "The Lady with the Pet Dog"?

"When they got out of the carriage at Oreanda they sat down on a bench not far from the church, and looked down at the sea, without talking.  Yalta could be dimly discerned through the morning mist, and white clouds rested motionless on the summits of the mountains.  Not a leaf stirred, the grasshoppers chirruped, and the monotonous hollow roar of the sea came up to them, speaking of peace, of the eternal sleep lying in wait for us all.  The sea had roared like this long before there was any Yalta or Oreanda, it was roaring now, and it would go on roaring, just as indifferently and hollowly, when we had passed away.  And it may be that in this continuity, this utter indifference of life and death, lies the secret of our salvation, of the stream of life on our planet, and of its never-ceasing movement toward perfection." (Chekhov, "The Lady with the Pet Dog")

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The passage quoted is a very symbolic and metaphysical one:

... it was roaring now, and it would go on roaring, just as indifferently and hollowly, when we had passed away.  And it may be that in this continuity, this utter indifference of life and death, lies the secret of our salvation,  

Anna has just thrown herself into a moral violating situation during her tryst with Gurnov. Now she feels a deep and, to her, overwhelming need for forgiveness (Gurnov finds her sentiment only boring). Anna finds herself in a moral dilemma in which her desire produces a moral requisite for forgiveness as a consequence of her ardent beliefs as an Orthodox Russian.

The quotation holds Chekhov's suggestion for the solution to her moral dilemma. The solution lies in the indifference of life and death to anything humans experience. This indifference is emblematically shown by the relentless roaring of the sea (remember Chekhov was at Yalta for his health when he wrote this story). If both life and death are equally indifferent to human experience and action, then there is no moral meaningfulness in life thus no moral dilemma ... thus no forgiveness is needed.

This relates to Anna and Gurnov because Chekhov's metaphysical solution sets the stage for the resolution of the story in which both contemplate abandoning their moral and religious vows in order to embrace a moral-violating life with each other. In other words, if Chekhov's suggestion of universal indifference as a solution to the moral dilemma is correct, then there is nothing to prevent them from doing the contemplated violation because there is no moral demand upon them, thus no moral obligation for them to violate.

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The Lady with the Pet Dog

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