A few dark truths can be gleaned from Anton Chekhov’s story of adultery, “The Lady with the Dog.” This story, though it lacks the more traditional elements of fiction such as rising action/climax/denouement, explores the motivations of Dmitri Dmitrich Gurov and Anna Sergeyevna. Both married, both away from their respective spouses while on holiday in Yalta, both looking for an escape from the domestic, the quotidian. The highly likable though serial philanderer Gurov knows, through scarlet experience, that “every intimacy, which at first so agreeably diversifies life and appears a light and charming adventure, inevitably grows into a regular problem of extreme intricacy,” yet “at every fresh meeting with an interesting woman this experience [seems] to slip out of his memory.” One may submit that Gurov’s all-consuming passion for passion compels him to ignore the felicitas interrupta that has inevitably followed his previous trysts. However, his compulsion may not be so easily dismissed.
After consummating their first hotel encounter, they drive to Oreanda, where Gurov ruminates upon the unceasing movement of life and upon salvation as they gaze at the waters, seated not far from a church. Gurov thinks “how in reality everything is beautiful in this world when one reflects: everything except what we think or do ourselves when we forget our human dignity and the higher aims of our existence.” For Gurov, fleeting love affairs function as the stuff of which post-coital musing are made. His Muse visits him only between the sheets, and she demands that both they and the women between them are changed regularly. These reflections are what, at least to himself, set him apart from hordes of unreflective savages–the massa damnata of romance-a (I tried), such as the men he must surround himself with in order to be social and who want only to glut themselves, get drunk, and play cards.
Gurov knows that he is not the only one benefiting from his amorous adventures. The women he seduces “[love] him cheerfully and [are] grateful to him for the happiness he [gives] them, however brief it might be….” In other words, these women are those of the EatLovePray variety who look for love in all the exotic places.
In either case, we have men and women using each other, each with their own dubious justifications. The story concludes by intimating that their affair will continue, though they be like “a pair of birds of passage, caught and forced to live in different cages.” The cages of commitment. What are such cages, though, to those must fly wherever they feel led?