The Lady with the Dog: Theme & Analysis

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  • 0:01 Chekhov's 'The Lady…
  • 1:47 Theme in 'The Lady…
  • 2:56 Analyzing 'The Lady…
  • 5:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joshua Wimmer

Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses.

Wearing a costume at Halloween can be fun, but wearing a mask every day gets old after a while. Find out just how hard ongoing deception can be when you check out this lesson analyzing the theme in Anton Chekhov's 'The Lady with the Dog.'

Chekhov's 'The Lady with the Dog'

With entire television shows dedicated to catching cheaters in action, it's obvious that we often have a morbid curiosity concerning stories of infidelity. No wonder, then, that a short story like 'The Lady with the Dog' would become one of Chekhov's most famous and widely-circulated works.

Often revered for his mastery of the form, Chekhov fills this short story with nonstop intrigue as he tells the tale of the habitually unfaithful Dmitri Gurov and his pursuit of Anna Sergeyevna. After encountering the young married woman in the seaside resort of Yalta, Gurov successfully pursues and seduces her as he has so many other women before. However, he soon realizes that his relationship with Anna is different from any he's had before.

With Anna feeling guilty and vulnerable following their first sexual encounter, Gurov's attitude toward her and their developing relationship begins to soften. Dmitri begins to realize that he has genuine feelings for Anna like he's had for no other woman before. Even after the two part ways and he's back home in Moscow, he can't get her off his mind, eventually even venturing to her hometown to see her.

After surprising Anna at a theater production that her husband also attends, Gurov discovers that she's just as enamored with him. Nevertheless, she begs him to return to Moscow, where she promises she'll visit. Claiming that she's seeing a doctor there, Anna follows through, but after a few visits, the charade is beginning to weigh on her. As the story ends, the couple's issue is never fully resolved; rather, they come to the realization that their relationship has a long road ahead of it.

Theme in 'The Lady with the Dog'

You might be unfamiliar with Sir Walter Scott or his epic poem Marmion, but you've probably heard this famous quote from it: 'O, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive.' In 'The Lady with the Dog,' Dmitri and Anna weave their own tangled webs to cover their affair, and the difficulties of such deception are what form the story's main thematic focus.

For Gurov, this sort of dishonesty is commonplace. He admits early in the story that 'he had begun being unfaithful to (his wife) long ago - had been unfaithful to her often. . .' However, despite Dmitri's comfort level with deception, he runs into a problem, since Anna clearly takes issue with the practice. Wracked with guilt but also by her own desire to find happiness, Anna eventually plays her own role in the ruse, feigning a medical condition as an excuse to visit Moscow. However, as the story ends, it's evident that the weight of their deception is still heavy on Anna, leading both to realize just how difficult false acts performed, even in the name of true love, can be.

Analyzing 'The Lady with the Dog'

From fairy tales to Hollywood blockbusters, overly romanticized tales of instant love have often hidden the fact that 'happily ever after' doesn't just happen. While it's true that people sometimes 'just click,' there's also evidence that some of the happiest relationships take some of the hardest work. In the case of Dmitri and Anna, though, their own deception is the cause for all their hard work - or is it, really?

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