The Lady with the Dog

(Great Characters in Literature)

Characters Discussed

Dmitrii Dmitrich Gurov

Dmitrii Dmitrich Gurov (DMIH-tree DMIH-trihch GEW-rov), a Moscow banker. A married man approaching middle age, Dmitrii is a property owner, the father of three children, and an amateur singer who once had aspirations to join a private opera company. He is also a veteran adulterer. While vacationing by himself at Yalta, he intends to continue his infidelity if the opportunity presents itself. He is, however, clearly aware that each new affair soon palls, although the prospect of inevitable boredom over his conquests and his disgust over each affair’s messy ending do not dissuade him from striking up an acquaintance with Anna, who seems to be easy prey. His shallow and cynical attitude toward women (to whom he refers as the “lower breed”) is in part the result of his bitterness over marriage to a severe, intellectual woman whom he wed while still at the university. His round of activities, both at the seaside resort and in Moscow, is characterized by cynicism and boredom and by the spurious pleasures of card games at his clubs and sophisticated chatter at social gatherings. His immersion in the old pleasures proves useless, however, in disguising the fact that he has fallen deeply in love with Anna. As their affair lengthens and becomes increasingly serious, Dmitrii’s trifling, pleasure-obsessed existence grows tragic.

Anna Sergeevna von Diederitz

Anna Sergeevna von Diederitz (AHN-nah sehr-GEH-yehv-nah von DIH-deh-rihtz), a young married woman. Anna, a sensitive and morally conscientious but inexperienced young woman, has been married for two years to a minor provincial official whom she detests. Her affair with Dmitrii is cataclysmic for her; she sees herself as a “fallen woman” and becomes despondent. She feels, moreover, that she has deceived not only her husband but herself as well. Her visit to Yalta is the result of frustration occasioned by the sameness of her life. Driven by curiosity, by the urge “to live,” she has convinced her husband that she suffers from an undefined illness and thus needs the rest that Yalta affords. Initially, her lovemaking with Dmitrii prompts her to self-disgust, a disgust she feels that Dmitrii shares; in her own eyes, she has become petty and despicable. At the same time, her love for Dmitrii deepens, and when he later appears in her provincial town, she recognizes that she and Dmitrii are doomed by their emotions. Anna perceives her own ambivalence; she realizes that even while she despises herself for her infidelity and is made miserable by a potentially tragic future, she is thrilled by the richer life she secretly shares with Dmitrii.