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Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Dog”. Setting. Setting. All stories embedded in setting: time and place, however expansive or limited “Sonny’s Blues”? “The Cask of Amontillado”? “The Lady with the Dog”?.

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  • All stories embedded in setting: time and place, however expansive or limited
    • “Sonny’s Blues”?
    • “The Cask of Amontillado”?
    • “The Lady with the Dog”?
Character, plot, and setting all interrelated, but we need to look at them separately in order to understand how they work together.
anton chekhov
Anton Chekhov
  • 1860 — 1904
  • Born in Russia
  • Medical doctor/playwright and short-story writer
  • Died of T.B.
  • Immense literary reputation

“Reading Chekhov was just like the angels singing to me.” Eudora Welty, American writer, 1977
the lady with the dog 1899
“The Lady with the Dog,” 1899

  • Two parts:
    • Yalta
    • Moscow

“Reading Anton Chekhov's stories, one feels oneself in a melancholy day of late autumn, when the air is transparent and the outline of naked trees, narrow houses, greyish people, is sharp. Everything is strange, lonely, motionless, helpless. The horizon, blue and empty, melts into the pale sky, and its breath is terribly cold upon the earth, which is covered with frozen mud. The author's mind, like autumn sun, shows up in hard outline the monotonous roads, the crooked streets, the little squalid houses in which tiny, miserable people are stifled by boredom and laziness and fill the houses with an unintelligible, drowsy bustle. ...


There passes before one a long file of men and women, slaves of their love, of their stupidity and idleness, of their greed for the good things of life; there walk the slaves of the dark fear of life; they straggle anxiously along, filling life with incoherent words about the future, feeling that in the present there is no place for them. ... In front of that dreary, gray crowd of helpless people there passed a great, wise, and observant man: he looked at all these dreary inhabitants of his country, and, with a sad smile, with a tone of gentle but deep reproach, with anguish in his face and in his heart, in a beautiful and sincere voice, he said to them: ‘You live badly, my friends. It is shameful to live like that.’”

— Maxim Gorky, Reminiscences of Anton Chekhov (BW Huebsch, 1921)



snow on palms yalta
Snow on Palms, Yalta


boardwalk black sea yalta
Boardwalk, Black Sea, Yalta

moscow winter
Moscow – Winter

moscow in winter
Moscow in Winter



moscow street scene
Moscow – Street scene



“Tolstoy is reported to have said that Tchekov was a photographer, a very talented photographer, it is true, but still only a photographer. But Tchekov has one quality which is difficult to find among photographers, and that is humour. His stories are frequently deliciously droll. They are also often full of pathos, and they invariably possess the peculiarly Russian quality of simplicity and unaffectedness. He never underlines his effects, he never nudges the reader's elbow.”

— Maurice Baring, Landmarks in Russian Literature (Methuen, 1916)


“Tchekov was the poet of hopelessness. Stubbornly, sadly, monotonously, during all the years of his literary activity, nearly a quarter of a century long, Tchekov was doing one thing alone: by one means or another he was killing human hopes. Herein, I hold, lies the essence of his creation.”

— Lev Shestov, Anton Tchekov and Other Essays (Maunsel & Co, 1916)


“The situation, indeed the entire plot of ‘The Lady with the Dog,’ is obvious, even banal, and its merit as a work of art lies in the artistry with which Chekhov has preserved in the story a balance between the poetic and the prosaic, and in the careful characterization, dependent upon the use of half-tones.”

— Virginia Llewellyn Smith, Anton Chekhov and "The Lady with the Dog" (Oxford UP, 1973)

  • When Gurov and Anna take their first walk together, they discuss “the strange light of the sea: the water was of a soft warm lilac hue, and there was a golden streak for the moon upon it.” Why do you think Chekhov waits until this moment to provide descriptive details of the story’s setting in Yalta?
How do the weather and season described in each section relate to the action in that section?
  • What is Gurov’s attitude toward his affair with Anna at the outset? What is Anna’s attitude? What are some indications that both Gurov and Anna are unprepared for the relationship that develops between them?