illustration of a man looking out a window at a woman in a hat and dress walking her little dog

The Lady with the Pet Dog

by Anton Chekhov
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Where and how is irony used in Chekhov's "The Lady With The Pet Dog"?

The irony is that after a life-time of avoiding love, Gurov finally falls in love but cannot be with the woman he truly loves. Checkov uses irony to make the reader think about what might have been had Gurov and Anna been able to be together.

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In the short story, “The Lady With the Pet Dog,” Anton Checkov uses irony when he allows the womanizer Gurov to finally fall in love and build a relationship when he is growing old. But despite their love for one another, the relationship brings them sadness rather than joy.

Gurov spent his life going from affair to affair but never loving the women he used.

Time had passed, he had met one woman after another, become intimate with each, parted with each, but had never loved. There had been all sorts of things between them, but never love.

But then, “when he was grey-haired,” he falls in love with Anna Sergeyevna and experiences a proper loving relationship for the first time in his life.

He and Anna Sergeyevna loved one another as people who are very close and intimate, as husband and wife, as dear friends love one another. It seemed to them that fate had intended them for one another…

After waiting all these years and after all those superficial liaisons, one would expect that his real connection with Anna would be a source of pure happiness for both of them. He has found someone to love him, and she “loved him ever more fondly, worshiped him.” But they are both married to other people, so they must meet in secret. This complication makes it impossible for them to build a life together.

He rang for tea, and a little later, while he was drinking it, she was still standing there, her face to the window. She wept from emotion, from her bitter consciousness of the sadness of their life; they could only see one another in secret, hiding from people, as if they were thieves. Was not their life a broken one?

The irony is that this extramarital relationship is a tease—their happy times together make them imagine what life would be like if they could openly be a couple, but they are denied the fulfillment of their dreams.

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There is irony in the portrayal of Gurov’s character. While Gurov seems to dislike women, he cannot quite live without them. He refers to women as the “lower race” and almost always has something negative to say about them. He is heavily prejudiced against them, yet cannot “get on for two days together without them.” He loves the company of women, preferring this to male company. He has been unfaithful to his wife, whom he considers “unintelligent, narrow and inelegant,” for as long as he can remember.

Also, it is ironic that Gurov is unable to forget Anna Sergeyevna—the lady with the pet dog—after their Yalta affair. Habitually, he often forgets his conquests as soon as the affair ends. This time around, however, the memory of Anna lives with him, “glowing more and more vividly” with every passing day. He starts to look for Anna in other women, and when he does not find her there, he is so anguished by thoughts of her that he desperately seeks a confidant with whom he can discuss these tormenting thoughts. As time passes by, Gurov becomes utterly dissatisfied with his life: “He is sick of the children, sick of the bank; he has no desire to go anywhere or to talk of anything.” Gurov discovers that he loves Anna and resolves to find her so that he can rekindle their relationship. The story ends with the two secret lovers struggling to make sense of the relationship—wondering how to break free, each one, from the oppressing marriage vows.

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Gurov is both drawn to and repelled by women. He considers them “the lower race,” and yet he is threatened by educated women. One point of irony in the story is that although he has a low opinion of women, not only can he not live without them, but he actually feels more comfortable in their presence than he does in the presence of men. He feels ill-used by women, but instead of avoiding new relationships, every time he meets a new woman that excites his interest, he temporarily forgets about his past bitter experiences with love and dives right in. Another source of irony is that when he meets Anna Sergeyevna, he looks forward to “a swift, fleeting love affair, a romance with an unknown woman, whose name he did not know.” Instead, he falls in love with Anna, and the two begin a tortured and secret love affair.

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The irony is in the fact that Gurov initiates the affair with Anna for purely physical purposes. He has no respect for women, they exist to satisfy his pleasure. When he meets Anna, he wants to have a dalliance, an affair simply for pleasure.Once

"Gurov has discovered true love, he finds himself intolerant of the Moscow social life, a life ‘‘clipped and wingless, an absurd mess.’’

"Gurov learns that he cannot tolerate living a lie and that it was wrong to engage in a superficial relationship with Anna. Similarly, Gurov has learned a moral lesson regarding his attitude towards women in general."

"He has always belittled women, regarding them as the ‘‘inferior race,’’ but throughout the story gains a certain respect for Anna, and regards her as a friend."

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