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Anton Chekhov was a Russian writer who was known for his short stories and plays. The Lady with the Dog, written in 1899, is a story that focuses on two lovers that continue to have an affair despite the fact that they are both married. When Chekhov died he was laid in the town of Yalta, whereby the lovers’ in his story have their initial meeting. It can be argued that the relationship at the center of the story reflects the romance of Chekhov’s. The Lady with the Dog is portrayed as a rather typical Chekhov tale in that it reflects the main style and literary preferences of the author. The story seems to break traditional rules of storytelling, especially considering his plot and conclusion. This story is essentially describing to us what everyday people do when they get put in certain situations, we are then able to discuss and ultimately judge the characters for ourselves as Chekhov intentionally avoids showing his own opinion on the subject at hand. We, as readers, are able to judge the situation and the characters and decide whether or not they are doing the right thing.
It can be argued that The Lady with the Dog is essentially one of Chekhov’s best known stories. This story is one in which demonstrates Chekhov’s rather powerful style in that he seems to never say any more than what is most relevant. It is shown that he portrays emotional complexity through using minimal words, and as a result this maintains the intensity of his characters’ feelings. A key example of this taking place in the text is when Chekhov expresses Dmitri’s desire for Anna in that he says “she, this little woman, in no way remarkable, lost in a provincial crowd, with a vulgar lornette in her hand, filled his whole life now, was his sorrow and his joy â€¦ He thought and dreamed.” Chekhov also uses the idea of colour to represent the feelings of the characters in that the aging of Dmitri’s hair is described as greying, and he often wears grey suits, whereas the sea at Yalta is filled with colour as “the water was of a soft warm lilac hue, and there was a golden streak from the moon upon it.” Essentially, Chekhov portrays Yalta as a rather romantic place for both Anna and Dmitri, in which it contains the concept of colour and provides an intimate oasis in which they cannot imagine to recreate at some other place.
Within the story, it is expressed that the lovers worry about what they mean to one another, Anna is anxious that Dmitri thinks of her as only a “common woman” while Dmitri thinks Anna is charmed by a rather false impression of him as a “kind, exceptional, lofty” man. It is suggested that they come to this conclusion as they acknowledge that their relationship is based upon future hopes combined with past disappointments alongside desires of the present. Chekhov thus toys with our unspoken belief that the characters do not exist beyond their narrative framework. Anna and Dmitri are ultimately defined by their past and their future, as much as they are also conveyed by the short period of their lives. It has been noted within The Realist Short Story of the Powerful Glimpse [ii] that “While numbers of Chekhov’s stories â€¦ take place in ‘real time’ or an approximation of it â€¦ such concision is not the defining feature â€¦ ‘The Lady with the Little Dog’ â€¦ is not the temporal and spatial limits of observation but rather intensity of focus that is the prerequisite for a powerful impression” (p.4) This reinforces the idea that within Chekhov’s stories there is no straightforward direct progression in his narrative, readers as a result question what has happened to the characters and what kind of life they will continue to lead.
In order to understand this story to its full extent, we almost have to guess what has happened prior to the events described, and essentially what has happened after them. Dmitri ultimately realises he has deceived himself just as he is about to deceive Anna. Essentially, it could be suggested that Dmitri is in effect searching for a verdict in that he is redeemed by the innocent romance of Anna. The story itself provides a large amount of ambiguity, it is portrayed that Anna somewhat re-establishes Dmitri’s desire for life but also, that Dmitri’s love for her further complicates his idea of home. It is suggested that Moscow seems, for Dmitri, as though he were trapped in a “madhouse or in penal servitude”, this could ultimately be because he remembers Yalta as being vast in its beauty. Chekhov suggests that the path towards love and women for Dmitri is not necessarily a straightforward one, and further, it can be argued that Dmitri’s commitment to the female sex or “lower race” essentially only brings confusion and a slight hope for future redemption. This idea is reinforced in the novel The Realist Short Story of the Powerful Glimpse â€¦ in that it is suggested that “‘The Lady with the Little Dog’ â€¦ begins to change into something more when they sit alone on a beach at dawn and look out at the sea. Its constancy and “utter indifference to the life and death of each of us” lead Dmitri to reflect on higher matters – “the higher goals of being and our human dignity”. His soul, one might say, is touched, and his relation to Anna begins to change into an abiding love that will make his social existence seem increasingly false and secondary.” (p.116) Here, Dmitri acknowledges that he is living two lives, “one open, seen and known by all who cared to know” and another “running its course in secret”, as a result of this notion the story ends on a rather ambiguous note. It seems as though the only way the couple can resolve their fears is to essentially recognise that they are composed at the beginning of a “new and splendid life,” although arguably one that they will not willingly enjoy for a long time to come.
One of the main themes that are portrayed within this story is ultimately the idea of love. It would seem however, that love is an unconscious act. The characters are inevitably made victims of it in that it comes to them at the worst times, in the worst circumstances, and they cannot control it. Ultimately, it is suggested that love has the power to change people, this is reinforced when it is revealed that “In his appearance, in his character, in his whole nature, there was something attractive and elusive which allured women and disposed them in his favour; he knew that, and some force seemed to draw him, too, to them” which suggests that Dmitri is not only transformed by his love for Anna, but somewhat educated by it as well. Ultimately, the story suggests that love brings not only pain and inconvenience, but also hope for something better. In addition to this, The Lady with the Dog explores the concept of isolation in that not only is there isolation from the world that the lovers feel when they are together, but also, the lovers themselves are separated from one another, it could be suggested that this is due to an inability to understand the world from the others’ perspective. It is shown that “She was walking alone, always wearing the same béret, and always with the same white dog; no one knew who she was, and every one called her simply “the lady with the dog” which shows us that Anna feels separate from the Yalta crowd, as no one knows anything about her. Towards the end of the story, it is suggested that in fact everyone is essentially isolated from everyone.
The Lady with the Dog is, in essence, a realistic story that shows two people having an affair. The narrative is presented in a rather straightforward manner, it seems as though Chekhov does not tend to rely on much symbolism. This, in effect, presents us with a view of how life really is. In addition to this, the story’s structure alongside its conclusion also integrates this idea of realism. Chekhov seems to stray from the conventional methods of story writing, in that he does not incorporate a standard beginning, middle and end. Instead, he aims to create a world that goes beyond what is on the page. It can be suggested that Dmitri’s life has already started before the story has begun, and ultimately his life with Anna continues when the story has finished. The final paragraph, “â€¦ 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” suggests that this is not much of a conclusion, but rather, a start to Dmitri and Anna’s new life together, potentially a start to another story altogether. Given the already pre-existing conventions of a short story, Chekhov’s The Lady with the Dog may come across as rather unusual, but nonetheless this is what makes it considerably more interesting. This style of his writing essentially adds to the realism of the story in that in real life, things tend to just happen. The Lady with the Dog asks more questions, rather than providing us with answers. This is reinforced with the ending of the story, as readers are ultimately left to wonder regarding the future of the two lovers.
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