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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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Pet Dog” follows the tumultuous life of Dmitri Dmitritch Gurov, a comfortably middle-aged Moscow banker who is deeply unhappy in his marriage. Dmitri is a notorious playboy, and his attitude toward his wife and women in general is not a positive one. He details his penchant for infidelity and distaste for women early on, explaining: 

He had begun being unfaithful to her long ago—had been unfaithful to her often, and, probably on that account, almost always spoke ill of women, and when they were talked about in his presence, used to call them "the lower race."

Dmitri’s distasteful self-introduction marks him as a callous womanizer with an intensely misogynistic outlook. In the early days of his affair with Anna Sergeyevna, there is little indication that their dalliance will be unlike many others he has had. Indeed, he is quite certain that she will soon fade from his memory like all the women who preceded her.

Anna Sergeyevna, however, suffers from intense guilt over their affair. The shame of her misdeeds overtakes her, and she frantically tries to prove her innocence, telling Dmitri that affairs like theirs are unlike her: 

"Believe me, believe me, I beseech you . . ." she said. "I love a pure, honest life, and sin is loathsome to me. I don't know what I am doing. Simple people say: 'The Evil One has beguiled me.' And I may say of myself now that the Evil One has beguiled me."

Anna’s words do not move Dmitri, and, true to character, he finds her emotional speech and tears tiresome. However, once Dmitri returns to Moscow, he finds that he is unable to forget her. What he thought had been a purely sexual affair with a much younger woman unexpectedly evolved into love.

But more than a month passed, real winter had come, and everything was still clear in his memory as though he had parted with Anna Sergeyevna only the day before. And his memories glowed more and more vividly.

Obsessed and unable to rid thoughts of their time in Yalta from his mind, Dmitri travels to Anna Sergeyevna's city and tracks her to a local theater. When they meet again, there is both tension and love expressed. Dmitri

...recalled how when he had seen Anna Sergeyevna off at the station he had thought that everything was over and they would never meet again. But how far they were still from the end!

After their heartfelt reunion, the pair continue their clandestine affair, and Anna Sergeyevna travels secretly to Moscow from time to time. The lovers are both mired in unfulfilling marriages, and the feelings between them progress. Dmitri realizes that he is in love for the first time in his life and reflects on this.

Anna Sergeyevna and he loved each other like people very close and akin, like husband and wife, like tender friends; it seemed to them that fate itself had meant them for one another, and they could not understand why he had a wife and she a husband; and it was as though they were a pair of birds of passage, caught and forced to live in different cages. They forgave each other for what they were ashamed of in their past, they forgave everything in the present, and felt that this love of theirs had changed them both.

The story ends with the pair realizing that it will be difficult for them to find a way to be together permanently. Despite the difficulty their relationship brings, they are unwilling to part. 

And it seemed as though in a little while the solution would be found, and then a new and splendid life would begin; and it was clear to both of them that they had still a long, long road before them, and that the most complicated and difficult part of it was only just beginning.

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