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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What is the narrative structure of "The Lady with the Pet Dog"?

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The point of view used in this brilliant story is limited third-person, as the detached narrator is only given access to the thoughts and feelings of Gurov and we only perceive Ann Sergeyevna through what she says and does. We are never given access to her thoughts and feelings and it is only through Gurov that we can learn about her. This of course presents us with a curiously limited narrative style, as again and again we are forced to draw our own conclusions about Anna through what Gurov sees and thinks about her. Even the title of the story itself draws attention to this limitation, as it shows the way that Gurov does not know the name of this new lady with her pet dog.

However, this narrative style does allow Chekhov to subtly depict the gradual change and shift of Gurov's feelings and emotions about this anonymous lady. What is notable about this account of one man's change through a relationship is that Gurov never considers the feelings of how his family might be impacted by his adultery. He only thinks of Anna. The narrative style therefore helps maintain a focus on the central character, Gurov, and his shift from viewing himself as somebody who has taken up seduction as a hobby to somebody who is deeply in love and willing to sacrifice anything to hold on to that love. It is interesting that at the end of the story, the narrative style changes abruptly as Chekhov presents us with both of their thoughts when he says: "it was clear to both of them that the end was still far off..." Clearly, the abrupt change of narration as we are given access to both of their thoughts is meant to underline the unity that they have gained in their relationship.

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