“The Lady with the Dog” by Chekhov
“The Lady with the Dog” is remarkably a twisted story with a lot of subtlety and relativity in light of the events that are described. The story is about an old man, being relatively old. It states of him and a younger woman who supposedly reminds him of his daughter. These two characters within the story are seen to have their insecurities and unresolved emotional problems. They are both married and, thus, not expected to get into a relationship. One would, hence, easily claim that they are immoral due to their indulgence in an extra marital affair as seen in the story. It is, however, where the relativity of the author’s imagination comes in. It will be discussed in this paper. This essay debates on a probable response from Chekov for an assessment that states that, “No excuses can be made for the lovers’ adulterous affair. They behave selfishly and irresponsibly. They are immoral – and so is the story.” The response will also be discussed and justified or nullified based on the author’s treatment of lovers in his story.
An assessment stating that in “The Lady with the Dog”, “no excuses can be made for the lovers’ adulterous affair”. They behave selfishly and irresponsibly. They are immoral – and so is the story” is likely to stir a simple response from Chekhov given his treatment of Anna and Gurov. In the telling, he creates a feeling of a beginning as opposed to an ending. While the affair may be seen as the finish to their marriages, it is the start of true love. It means that the lovers are not being immoral but rather true to their feelings. Gurov is unhappy. He has had a series of love affairs with a lot of women, usually older than Anna and most of them being married too. According to Chekhov and Yarmolinsky (1977), “Gurov felt a pity for this life, still so warm and exquisite, but probably soon to fade and droop like his own” (p. 80). Anna, on the other hand, has some unexplained sadness in her marriage, and some sense of discontent when it has come to her husband. It is seen when she does not want him to call her back home while she was having a vacation in Yalta. When he does she leaves with a sad relief. The irony herein might reflect her guilt at having been involved with Gurov. However, it also implicates her sadness at having to return to a husband and back home that she has not believed in. Her place was with Gurov, and that was a debate she would have to win in her mind first.
Chekhov is certainly not going to agree that the characters are irresponsible. They have started out as acquaintances at a public park, with a little connection. And while they may have been attracted to each other from the onset, the two ones were mostly confidantes and companions on a vacation. The fact that they were both lonely deeply inside is what has sparked their relationship. It does not mean that they have positioned themselves specifically to fall in love with each other. Considering them as irresponsible implies that they have planned to find each other and cheat on their spouses. To Gurov, cheating on his wife was not a new thing. It was not exactly a problem as he has already made a habit out of infidelity with personal justifications. It means that falling in love was actually a good issue for him. He has finally found one woman with whom he could share his life. He was willing to wait to make it happen. He did not mind the secrecy with which he would have to live his life and his love. It was just for the hope of long term happiness when they finally could be together openly.
With regards to immorality, the definition is relative. First, Chekhov would argue that these lovers were only pursuing their personal interests. They are not happy in their respective marriages, and neither are their partners. It means that finding a way out is the right thing to do. It may start out as adultery. However, in the end, they will enable themselves and their spouses to find happiness by concluding the bad marriages and instead getting together rightfully. In fact, these characters are considerate as seen in their agreement to stay secretive and avoid hurting other people in their lives. It should happen until they can really be together openly. In a case such as the one of Gurov and Anna in this story, it can be presumed that the end will justify the means.
About the story being immoral, it is a subject of debates depending on the views of a reader. The author creates a space for the reader to imagine the characters’ in the past and future. He allows for one to shape the heroes, defining them based on what they believe. It means that both Anna and Gurov are the subjects to different interpretations for various readers. One with the presumption that the two ones have had a rough past with their experiences on the subject of love would consider the story as one that restores hope to the hopeless romantics. It is for those who dream about finding their true love even after experiencing bad marriages. There is absolutely nothing immoral about love and the concept of “happily ever after” (Chekhov, 2004, p.23). The two persons are, thus, likely to end up getting married and possibly spending the rest of their lives in the marital bliss. However, for people with no romanticism in their imagination, the two individuals may simply be acting out their selfish interests in cheating on their spouses, thus, making the story immoral. Such a perspective would end the telling in divorce or suicide, making it immoral in every aspect.
The author treats these characters with subtlety and some level of ambiguity for a good reason. They are both adults, with a clear head and an ability to make their own choices. It means that they are expected to do what is right by them. By giving them an opportunity to be together even though they are married, the author provides them a chance to define their true selves for the reader. From their actions, it is clear that they are filled with hopes and dreams of a future together. For instance, when Gurov visits Anna in her unnamed hometown and meets her at the theatre when her husband goes out for a smoke, she is excited to see him. She even admits to having missed him. She may have scorned him for visiting her, but she also appreciated his gesture. It means that she has acknowledged the complications that they brought on to each other’s lives and marriages. However, it was also appreciative of the intensity and sincerity with which they had loved each other. They had hopes in their happiness and in their love for each other. It cannot be immoral in any way.
Stating that the lovers in this story had no excuses for indulging in an extra marital affair would be to lack an imagination. At the beginning of the story, Gurov is presented as a forty year old man who has no love for his shrewish and intelligent wife. The man is unhappy in his own marriage. He has been resorting to meaningless encounters with other women in Moscow. Chekhov (2004) describes the woman as “a tall, black-browed woman, erect, dignified, and imposing” (p. 66). He is seen to be wallowing in his own version of self pity and eventual self destruction as he lies to himself. These meaningless affairs can make up for his lack of love for his wife. His life is, thus, empty, and that is a past that justifies the love he eventually feels for the lady with the dog. Anna is, on the other hand, seen as a young woman who is alone on vacation in Yalta. The fact that she is vacationing alone despite being married implies there’s some trouble within her marriage as well. And while the author does not indulge the reader by discussing her marital woes, the hints are quite clear. Her husband is either too busy for her, or too occupied. Both way, the young woman is not happy. She needs some attention (Edrich, 2003).
Both characters are evidently unhappy, and it remains up to them to find their own happiness. It means that when it comes down to it, the choices that they make are the definitions of their future together. They could have chosen to ignore their needs and their feelings for each other. They would spend the rest of their lives wondering ‘what if….?’ But they have acted on their desires, and made it possible for themselves to be happy again.
In “The Lady with the Dog”, Anton Chekhov teaches the reader that the past and the future are good excuses for the present. It makes the claim of selfishness, irresponsibility, and immorality null and void for the two main characters of the story. Anna and Gurov both act based on the past that may not be clear. However, it is hinted upon with regards to their unhappy marriages and a lack of love. The future, on the other hand, is looked upon with hope, and a promise of true as well as sincere love. In this regard, the past and the future justify the actions of the present, thus, making the lovers right in all aspects of their actions.