Anton Chekhov’s The Lady with the Dog


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A fantasy can be as simple as skydiving, or as complex as walking on the Moon. It can be said that most people have a fantasy of some fashion. Moreover, nearly everyone aspires to live out his or her fantasy at some point in time. Both Paul, an adolescent, in Willa Cather’s “Paul’s case,” (1905) and Dmitri Gurov, a middle aged man, in Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Dog,” (1899) have lives that are against their wishes which urges them to live out their fantasies. The places where they live, and the authoritative figures in their life, though, unfortunately prevent them from permanently achieving their dreams. Both characters in these short stories demonstrate that where a person comes from is where he or she will return, although momentarily a fantasy world can be obtained.
Both of these characters live in a world that they find unfavorable; however, both long to live out their fantasies despite their location. In “Paul’s Case,” Paul misbehaves in school and expresses a strong dislike towards his home life. For example, while returning home after working as an usher at Carnegie Hall, he describes his home and living quarters as “…his ugly sleeping chamber; the cold bathroom with the grimy zinc tub, the cracked mirror, the dripping spigots…” (494). However, on the other hand, he is able to “lose himself” while admiring artwork and music (491). The bedroom typically is seen as a sanctuary for a young adolescent, a place where he or she can be whatever he or she desires, but in Paul’s situation, it is portrayed as a miserable prison where he feels uncomfortable. He has a desire to be a part of the world in which participation in the arts is favorable. Similar to Paul, Anton Chekov’s character, Dmitri Gurov desires to live out his fantasies of love. Gurov becomes interested in this woman named Anna Sergeyevna, however, the only thing in common between them is that they are both are spending time in Yalta. Gurov lives in Moscow and Sergeyevna lives in a location that is referred to as “S___” (514). Despite the fact that he and she live in separate cities, Gurov insists on pursuing an affair with Sergeyevna. However, he knows that, “…ever affair which at first seems a light and charming adventure inevitably grows into a whole problem of extreme complexity, and in the end a painful situation is created” (513).

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The physical location for both Paul and Gurov would appear to have the final say in the pursuit of their fantasies, but both have determination to overcome their physical surroundings.
Not only do both of the main characters live in an unfavorable world, both have authoritative people in their lives that ultimately control their fate and what they can and cannot do. Paul’s father plays a great, controlling role in his life, and knows what he wants his son to be. What he wants Paul to be, however, is against what Paul’s wishes. There is a “…young man who was daily held up to Paul as a model, and after whom it was his father’s dearest hope that he would pattern” (495). By this example and the presence of “…pictures of George Washington and John Calvin …” (493), above Paul’s bed, one could gather that Paul has no true say in the type of individual that he is, and the pursuing of his dreams is considered rebellious in the eyes of his father, teachers, and society in general. Likewise, it is suggested that Gurov’s parents have or desire to have control over his love life: “They had found a wife for him when he was very young…” (513). In this context, “they” could be interpreted as his parents, as during this time period, people did not marry based off of love and often times the spouse was selected by the parents on the basis of social class. Gurov clearly continues having affairs despite his parents’ wishes that he remain married with the woman they have selected.
While both of the protagonists are able to overcome the world in which they live, and the people who are in authority of them, in the end, they must face the reality of where they came from is where they return. Paul is able to go to New York, a place known for its arts, by stealing money from a firm. While in New York he lives the glamorized life that he considers was destined for him. He, however, realizes in the end that, “…money was everything, the wall that stood between all he loathed and all he wanted” (502). Unfortunately Paul feels that death is the only way he can escape the conflict between reality and fantasy, and he takes his own life by jumping in front of a moving train. Paul is not the only character that was able to momentarily live out his fantasy, as Gurov has been able to hold an affair with Sergeyevna for a period of time. In their final encounter, the reader is told that she has fallen in love with Gurov, but he knows that, “…their love was bound to come to an end someday…” (522). However, unlike Paul who committed suicide, Gurov continues the relationship, even though he knows that it will eventually end.
In nearly all situations an obtained fantasy world is finite, and therefore one will return to where he or she has come from. The authoritative figures, such as parents and teachers, as well as locations can prove to be obstacles in acquiring one’s fantasies. Paul and Anton Gurov, however, are examples that they are only obstacles which can be overcome, if only for a short period of time. The pursuit of fantasies should not be discouraged despite the fact that there will evidently be obstacles of some sorts to overcome, because there is always a possibility that the fantasy can be fulfilled despite them.



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