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 theme of Chekhov's "The Lady with the Pet Dog"?

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Chekhov's "Lady with a Pet Dog" might be compared with two modern motion pictures: Play Misty for Me and Fatal Attraction. In both these films a man gets involved with a woman without considering the consequences. He is just bored or restless; he has nothing better to do; he has time on his hands. Then the relationship in both cases becomes intensely serious. Chekhov seems to be saying that people should not use other people as objects but should respect them as complex fellow humans. Chekhov stresses the fact that the viewpoint character is terribly bored in a boring place and instigates the adulterous liaison just for diversion, just to have something to do. The opening sentence of the story is marvelous. Everyone at the resort is bored. The biggest event they have to talk about is that a new visitor has been seen on the promenade walking a little dog. I suspect that both Play Misty for Me and Fatal Attraction were inspired by Chekhov's story. The structure of his story is really simple: a man starts an affair because he is bored or curious or mildly attracted, and then finds he can't get out of it. This sort of thing is not at all uncommon in real life.

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