Anton Chekhov in “the Lady with the Dog,” brilliantly displays the quest of one man to find happiness. Anton Chekhov’s short story, The Lady with the Little Dog, is the simple story of a philandering married man who finally falls in love with an unhappily married woman with whom he has an affair. Though it is a remarkably simple plot, the story is compelling to read because Chekhov’s use of two effective plot devices with diction and symbolism. Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was born in the small seaport of Taganrog, Ukraine on January 17th in the year 1860.
Today he is remembered as a playwright and one of the masters of the modern short story. He was the son of a grocer and the grandson of a serf who had bought his freedom, that and that his sons, 19 years earlier. Chekhov spent his early years under the shadow of his father’s religious fanaticism while working long hours in his store. Chekhov attended a school for Greek boys in his hometown from 1867-1868 and later he attended the local grammar school from 1868-1876 when his father went bankrupt and moved the family to Moscow.
Chekhov, only 16 at the time, decided to remain in his hometown and supported himself by tutoring as he continued his schooling for 3 more years. After he finished grammar school Chekhov enrolled in the Moscow University Medical School, where he would eventually become a doctor. Chekhov’s medical and science experience is evident in much of his work as evidenced by the apathy many of his characters show towards tragic events. While practicing medicine in 1886 he became a regular contributor to St. Petersburg daily Novoe vremya and it was during this time that he developed his style of the dispassionate, non-judgmental author. The lack of critical social commentary in Chekhov’s works netted him some detractors, but it gained him the praise of such authors as Leo Tolstoy and Nikolai Leskov. The young doctor-writer is described at this time as modest and grave, with flashes of brilliant gaiety. A son of the people, there was in his face an expression that recalled the simple-hearted village lad; his eyes were blue, his glance full of intelligence and kindness, and his manners unaffected and simple.
He was an untiring worker, and between his patients and his desk he led a life of ceaseless activity. His restless mind was dominated by a passion of energy and he thought continually and vividly. Often, while jesting and talking, he would seem suddenly to plunge into himself, and his look would grow fixed and deep, as if he were contemplating something important and strange. Then he would ask some unexpected question, which showed how far his mind had roamed. When Chekhov wrote this story in 1899, he had become a respiratory invalid as a result of far advanced tuberculosis.
At his doctor’s orders, he had spent the winter of 1898-99 in the mild climate of Yalta and was about to move there permanently. Chekhov had also fallen in love with Olga Knipper, the actress whom he would marry in 1901. It is tempting to view the tender relationship of Gurov and Anna in the light of Chekhov’s own newfound love. In every conversation between the protagonist (Dmitri) and his mistress (Anna), Chekhov notes silences. In every case, the silence between the characters heightens the tension of the moment in which it is inserted.
In the first instance, the two have just met, and are making small talk about Anna’s little dog. Dmitri has watched Anna for several days at this point, and has noticed that she is alone. He asks how long she’s been in Yalta, to which she replies, “About five days. And I’m already dragging through my second week here. ” Dmitri does not respond to this admission of boredom; instead, Chekhov tells the reader that “They were silent for a while” before continuing their conversation.
After Dmitri finally responds to her comment, Chekhov states that “Then they went on eating in silence, like strangers; but after dinner they walked off together—and a light, bantering conversation began, of free, contented people, who do not care where they go or what they talk about” . The silences in this first conversation, though they seem only to emphasize the kind of awkwardness with which people who have just met strain to connect with one another, actually set the stage for a repeated pattern of tense silences that foreshadow a deepening of the complexity in the relationship.
The next silence comes after a week of continued daily meetings and foretells the relationship’s passage from casual to physically intimate. Before the silence is noted, Dmitri and Anna are at a jetty admiring the sea and watching the boats come and go, and Dmitri is watching Anna closely; as she chatters aimlessly, he notices her movements and the shining in her eyes, all of which are the backdrop for the rising tension that peaks during a moment of silence: ‘“The weather’s improved towards evening,” he said. Where shall we go now? Shall we take a drive somewhere? ” She made no answer. ’ Anna’s failure to respond (her silence) marks the height of the tension and is immediately followed by a sudden embrace, a passionate and romantic kiss, laden with the nervousness that comes with public indiscretion, and finally, the suggestion from Dmitri that the two go to a private place to consummate the relationship: “Let’s go to your place…” he said softly. And they both walked quickly’.
Once again, after a silence, the relationship escalates. Chekhov uses the device repeatedly as the two fracture over Anna’s guilt and go their separate ways; the extended silence of their separation ultimately leads to Dmitri’s realization that he is in love with Anna, and the affair is finally rekindled. Chekhov’s story is told by both an omniscient narrator and the internal musings of the protagonist. In one particular passage, the musings of the omniscient narrator are entwined with those of the protagonist.
Particularly interesting is that Chekhov uses the omniscient narrator to provide the larger philosophy behind the events and characters of the story, while the smooth flow of the narrator’s philosophy into the protagonist’s thoughts takes the reader back into the story. The voice of the narrator ends when the reader is reminded that Dmitri Gurov is sitting next to Anna, but Dmitri continues and concludes the narrator’s train of thought.
The idea of a narrator who interjects philosophical observation is a particularly intriguing device; it takes the reader outside of the plot momentarily, examining larger issues than those at play in the story. This device adds dimension to a plot and story that could easily have been lacking interest. Chekhov tells his story in a linear manner introducing an idea after the other. For example, Gurov meets Anna and falls in love with her.
Even though at first he takes this relationship just like any other that, he had had; he eventually realizes his mistakes in relationships; “he focuses on sexual aspects without much emotional depth”). These two love birds then part ways going different directions only for Gurov to realize that he has found, “really, truly – for the first time in his life”). This is a linear form of events starting with Gurov meeting Anna, making their first love, spending time together, returning to their homes, reuniting after some period of separation, and establishment of an affair, which culminates to a relationship.
Chekhov uses a simple linear approach that allows for no deviation almost as if he were writing a logical proof. Chekhov’s plot devices in “The Lady with the Little Dog” are subtle and well-crafted, making the story read worthy and leaves the end on our hand. Chehov uses literary techniques creates a fantasy like picture in readers’ mind. Chekhov’s genius lies in marrying his theme of disunity with a harmonious authorial style. Readers never lose sight of the text’s central focus, which is the changeable fortune and emotions of its characters.