The protagonist of this brilliant short story is known as Gurov, who, in the opening pages of this tale, initiates an adulterous relationship that will transform his life forever. However, at the beginning, he is clearly unaware of the way in which his relationship with Anna will transform him. He is described as being under forty, is married and has children, but he has had a string of extra-marital relationships and sees adultery as something of a game for him. He has no love at all for his wife, who was chosen for him.
At the beginning of the story, it is clear that Gurov is described as being rather despicable. He seems to be addicted to women even though he calls them "the inferior race." Even when he is with Anna, he deliberately remains aloof and uninvolved with her, as is shown when he eats a watermelon whilst Anna is crying. However, when he returns to Moscow, he is surprised by the way in which he is unable to move on to another woman and forget her. His recognition that his love for Anna represents true love changes him from a detached voyeur of the world to being an actor in the messy central plot of love and how to achieve it. His transformation is shown in the way that he pledges to follow his true love whatever the cost.