‘The Lady With The Little Dog’ by Anton Chekhov

Chekhov, Anton 1898b

The Lady With The Little Dog by Anton Chekhov, 1899

The magic trick:

The three paragraphs, in the storys opening, which summarize Dmitris biography for the reader

Chekhov’s greatest magic trick is the way in which his stories betray almost no magic at all. He simply tells stories about things that happen to people. The magic is in the way he conveys the most intimate knowledge of his characters and their struggles. In “The Lady With The Little Dog,” the magic display begins almost immediately as he describes the story’s protagonist, Dmitri Dmitritch.

In but three paragraphs, Chekhov provides the reader with more insight about Dmitri’s life, situation, and motivations than most people know about themselves. He mixes straight biographical facts with quick-sketch anecdotes about Dmitri’s marriage with analysis of how these facts and anecdotes have affected Dmitri’s views.

It may sound simple, but I encourage anyone who hasn’t to attempt to sum a man up in three paragraphs. It’s difficult bordering on impossible for most of us. Chekhov makes it look easy in this section – and throughout the rest of the story. Every character, every scene, is drawn with minimal noise. He filters out the unnecessary language and information and gets right to the core of the issue every single time. And that’s quite a trick on Chekhov’s part.

The selection:

Experience often repeated, truly bitter experience, had taught him long ago that with decent people, especially Moscow people — always slow to move and irresolute — 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, and in the long run the situation becomes unbearable. But at every fresh meeting with an interesting woman this experience seemed to slip out of his memory, and he was eager for life, and everything seemed simple and amusing.


3 thoughts on “‘The Lady With The Little Dog’ by Anton Chekhov

  1. I remember liking Chekhov’s description of how Dimitri was beginning to realize he was no longer a young man. Also, I’ve heard of this story being titled “The Lady with the Dog,” “The Lady with the Pet Dog,” and now “The Lady With the Little Dog.” (Maybe this is due to varied translations?) Any idea which was Chekhov’s preferred original title?

    • Yes! I think that description might be key to the whole story, right? That feeling of life having passed him by, the idea that his standard M.O. can’t keep working, that he needs to try something else, find something new…. It’s all there. I love that with Chekhov’s work. Every description, every detail is crucial to the message. (And alas, I have no idea about Chekhov’s preferred translation!) Thank you so much for reading! Your insights are always so welcome!

    • I’ve read this story in Dutch (my mother tongue) and the title goes “De dame met het hondje”. “Hondje” is the diminutive of “Hond”, and “Hond” is Dog. I don’t think the English language has a diminutive for this, but it might have been doggy or doglet or something.

      Thus I do believe Chekhov meant to portray the dog as small, and the title claiming it in that way as well. This creates a tempting atmosphere around the lady straight away, totally different opposed to “just a, robust-like, dog”.

      Nice review by the way! 🙂

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