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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How can Chekhov's "The Lady with the Pet Dog" be divided into parts?

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In Parts I and II, Gurov goes on a vacation without his wife to a seaside resort in Yalta.  He does not much care for his wife, he finds her harsh and unintelligent.  His parents forced him to marry her, they picked his wife.  So he finds this lady in Yalta who walks her dog, and he decides that he would like to have an affair with her.  He wants to keep the affair simple, just physical, no emotional ties, no falling in love, just physical.  Gurov has no problem with this, he has a low opinion of women in general.

He meets Anna, who is also married, but not traveling with her husband.  Gurov and Anna have an encounter, she is very different from his wife.  Gurov appreciates Anna's femininity, and her softness. But he is able to keep his emotions out of the affair.  He does not really care about Anna, she is just a pleasant distraction while in Yalta.

In Part III, Gurov is once again home, and he begins to miss Anna and reject the emptiness of his life.  He decides that he must find her. He finds her, and they decide to pickup their affair again, she will visit him in Moscow, he will visit her.

In Part IV, Gurov and Anna realize that they love each other.  They cannot bear to be apart.  He wants to live openly with the woman he loves, Anna.  He promises her that someday they will be together.

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Describe the structure of the short story, "The Lady with the Pet Dog." How might it be divided into parts?

Having the dog makes Anna more accessible, since she must take the dog out for walks. It also makes her easier to meet. Somerset Maughamwrote in one of his Ashenden stories that it is never hard to meet a person who owns a dog. Strangers start by showing an interest in the dog, petting it, asking questions about it, and so on. It is possible that Anna has brought the little dog along on her vacation trip because she is hoping, consciously or consciously, that the cute little animal will be helpful in meeting people. The dog plays no further part in the story after it has brought Anna and Gurov together. Having a pet dog also shows that Anna is lonely. Most people keep dogs, cats, and birds for company.

Chekhov states that Gurov has had many extramarital affairs in the past, but what makes his affair with Anna different is that they are both away from their homes and families and have an unusually long time to bond with each other. Gurov's previous affairs may have been much briefer and more furtive, and this is a first time for Anna. The central part of the story is essential because it takes a certain length of time for the pair to form a bond, and the bonding is the whole point of the story.

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Describe the structure of the short story, "The Lady with the Pet Dog." How might it be divided into parts?

There seems to be four parts (though this is somewhat arbitrary): Yalta; Moscow; Anna's Town; Moscow Redux. Each section sees a slightly altered Gurov: in Yalta, he is the sexist (misogynist?) that looks at women as inferior, even treating Anna as a plaything that he will soon discard. Here, Gurov treats Anna with no more concern than he would, say, a lapdog.

Back in Moscow, Gurov begins to to think about Anna, seeing her as a person, perhaps, for the first time. He even gets upset when he begins to open up about Anna and his acquaintance can only comment about the stinky fish.

Gugrov becomes a bit more obsessed, and journeys to Anna's town, like a dog coming home seeking the warmth of its master. He tracks her down, and they begin their affair on a more regular basis.

Finally, returning to Moscow, Anna and Gurov continue their affair even in the midst of an uncertain future. Gurov is getting old, and he begins to think that his life has passed him by. Anna represents his chance to live again, or, more cynically, to recapture his youth.

This story is about the difficulties of connecting. It’s about relationships of love and the subtle power plays within those relationships.

It seems to me that the lapdog has been replaced by Gurov at the story’s end. (Of course this is not the only interpretation, but it is fun.)

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