Truth in the Face of Reality: Anton Chekhov's "Lady with the Dog"

Essay by vanna11@juno.comUniversity, Bachelor's April 2006

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Emily Dickinson once penned a proverb about love, saying "Love is anterior to life,/ Posterior to death,/ Initial of creation, and/ The exponent of breath" (Dickinson). Even supposed recluses, like Dickinson, naturally look to love for hope that life is more noble than it seems. When assailed by mundane perplexities, humans search for romance to raise them out of the entangling pit of common life. Especially enticing is forbidden love--love that can only exist under the ruse of deceit. Our most time-honored legends are permeated with accounts of "star-crossed lovers" risking all odds to be together: Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde, Pocahontas and John Smith, and Rick Blaine and Ilsa Laszlo are just a few such examples. In the midst of a world of blurred lines and imperfect people, following love's passions is simple and reassuring. Unfortunately, many lovers have discovered that the simplicity of love by no means guarantees happiness.

In Russian author Leo Tolstoy's epic Anna Karenina, the road of passion carries the novel's heroine to misery and ultimately suicide. In contrast, Anton Chekhov's short story "Lady with the Dog" objectively portrays life as it really is in all its confusion and complexity. However, instead of accepting objective reality, Chekhov's main characters reject the boredom of their mundane lives and blind themselves to reality, hoping instead to embrace truth.

While the subject matter of "Lady with the Dog" is scandalous and sensational, Anton Chekhov tells the story through coolly objective language and tone. His narrative voice is that of an uninvolved third person, though most events are seen through the limited perspective of the main protagonist, Dmitri Gurov. In keeping with his detached pace, Chekhov describes each of the characters, including Gurov, not through lengthy descriptions and adjectives but through facts...