Psychological Analysis of Anton Chekhov’s
The Lady with the Pet Dog
In Anton Chekhov’s short story, The Lady with the pet Dog, Dmitry Dmitrich Gurov and Anna Sergeyevna are bound together, not by love, but by their psychological needs. Both need to believe in a phenomenon deeper and more meaningful than each of their despised lives and for this reason; they think the intimacy between them, fueled by desperation, is love. . In reality, the relationship between Gurov and Anna is characterized by lies, boredom with reality, and a desire for self-satisfaction. Physiologically, neither Gurov nor Anna posses the qualities needed to genuinely love another person. In order to do so, one must love themselves, an attribute neither one attains. Gurov, upon returning to Moscow after vacationing in Yalta, where he met the young, lonely, newlywed Anna, decides to seek her out after Moscow life seems intolerable to him. Thus, a frustrated boredom with life sends him to her, not love. The setting reflects the charade, as their rendezvous takes place at a provincial theater where The Geishsa is showing. While the plot line shows parallels to The Lady with the Pet Dog, more importantly, it takes place in an arena where acting and fantasy thrive, the theater. Together, Anna and Gurov act out their own performance in which they love one another, and although their love is nonexistent, in the end, they make believe that it is. They are incapable of love because they do not love themselves. In saying he hates women, Gurov subconsciously admits that he despises himself. Long ago, Gurov began frequently cheating on his wife, “and for that reason, [he] almost always spoke ill of women…and used to call them “the inferior race.”” Yet, “when he was among women he felt free” and could “not have lived without “the inferior race” for two days,” but he also knows, “every affair…inevitably grows into a whole problem of extreme complexity, and in the end a painful situation is created” (p.223). Gurov claims to hate women, and yet, he cannot fathom life without these affairs. It is clear Gurov is trying to create an escape. His miserable life, his wife, who he “was afraid of,” the people in his social circle, with whom exist “futile pursuits and conversations always about the same topics,” all lead him to believe his life is as a bird in a cage, “clipped and wingless…there is no escaping” (p.229). The only escape Gurov finds are in his affairs with women. He lives for the swift high that temporarily relieves the numbness he feels in his regular life, and even dwells comfortably in these post-breakup period, where he views his life as “complicated and dramatic” (p.223). As time passes and drama fades, Gurov seeks to cure the inevitable depression that sets in, which is more severe than it was before the last affair. Not only does he feel, once again, depressed by the monotony of his life, he is disgusted with the person he is becoming. The result of hating himself after using women to facilitate his brief satisfaction is that he, in turn, hates women, because he will keep sleeping with them. “At every new meeting…this lesson of experience seemed to slip from his memory…and everything seemed so simple and diverting” (p.223). Unfortunate for Gurov, women seem to him a solution for his sadness, when in reality, they fuel the problem of Gurov’s subconscious self-disgust. He desires not only to escape his dull life, but himself. “I despise myself,” Anna says at the beginning of the story. Anna has “never been happy,” is “unhappy now, and never, never shall be happy, never!” (p.229). She clearly hates herself, will continue to hate herself, and could never love another person because of it. What she can do, however, is make Gurov feel needed in her quest for approval. Gurov constantly tells her how “beautiful she was, how seductive, was urgently passionate” and “would not move a step away from her” (p.227), all acts that...
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