Irony: incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the expected results. Huh? Well take the short story “Lady with a Dog” written by Anton Chekhov as an example. First let’s get a look at our main characters, Dmitri Gurov and Anna Sergeyevna, and how they met. Then we will take a look how the story has an ironic turn of events.
We first meet Dmitri Gurov, a married middle aged man with children, who has been unfaithful to his wife many times. He has a great contempt for women and refers to them as “the lower race”. But strangely can’t get enough of them, “ It seemed to him that he had been so schooled by bitter experience that he might call them what he liked, and yet he could not get on for two days together without the lower race”. He is a player, a playboy.
He doesn’t feel comfortable around men so he focuses his energies on the ladies, “In the society of men he was bored and not himself, with them he was cold and uncommunicative; but when he was in the company of women he felt free, and knew what to say to them and how to behave; and he was at ease with them even when he was silent”. He tells women what they want to hear so he can get them to bed, “ In his appearance, in his character, in his whole nature, there was something attractive and elusive which allured women and disposed then in his favour; he knew that, and some force seemed to draw him, too, to them.” This keeps life simple for him. Anna Sergeyevna is a young woman alone on vacation with her dog. We know she is married but the author doesn’t go into her character a great deal, at least not to the extent of Dmitri.
Perhaps it’s not important. They met while dinning alone at the same place, and spent the rest of the evening walking and talking. At the end of the evening while back in his room, Dmitri thought about her there and was confident that she would get there. “ Afterwards he thought about her in his room at the hotel – though she would certainly meet him next day; it would be sure to happen.” A week later they meet again, they spend the day and evening together, he asks her if she may want to go for a drive, she doesn’t answer, they kiss, “Let us go to you hotel.” And it was as simple as that. Anna’s reaction to what has happened is what we expect. She feels guilty and “dirty”, “God forgive me, it’s awful.”
She explains how she has wronged herself for many years staying with a husband she didn’t respect. “I am a bad woman; I despise myself and don’t attempt to justify myself. It’s not my husband but my self I have deceived. And not only just now; I have been deceiving myself for a long time. My husband may good be a good, honest man, but he is a flunky!” Dmitri admits that this time feels a little different; “But in this case there was still the diffidence, the angularity of inexperienced youth, an awkward feeling; and there was a consternation as though someone had suddenly knock at the door.” But still reacts how we expect him to, “Gurov felt bored already, listening to her. He was irritated by the naïve tone, by this remorse, so unexpected and inopportune; but for the tears in her eyes, he might have thought she was jesting or playing at part.” They met everyday at noon and spent the day together. She was scared he was persistent. The one-day Anna had to go home. Her husband was sick. She didn’t cry but she was so sad she was almost sick. Dmitri was sad to but looked at it as another chapter of his life was over. “And he thought, musing, that there had been another episode or adventure in his life, and it, too was at an end, and nothing left to it but a memory…He was moved, sad, and conscious of a slight remorse. “ They will never see each other again. And it was as simple as that. Or was it? Both Anna and Dmitri went home.
The author doesn’t talk of Anna at all during this time but focuses again on Dmitri. Perhaps, again, it is not important. Now this is the ironic part. He becomes absorbed in Moscow’s social life trying to forget Anna but he just can’t. “In another month, he fancied, the image of Anna Sergeyevna world be shrouded in a mist in his memory, and only from time to time would visit him in his dreams with a touching smile as others did. But more than a month passed, real winter had come, and everything was still clear in his memory as though he had parted with Anna Sergeyevna only the day before.” He goes to where Anna lives and walks around the town aimlessly for while but decides to go to the theatre on the off chance she may be there. She is and they meet again. Anna is horrified. He begs her to go way with him at that very moment and she finally agrees to meet him in Moscow.
They rendezvous like this for months, maybe years. And with no plan for their future they decided to be together. Dmitri is truly in love, “And only now when his head was gray he had fallen properly, really in love – for the first time in his life.” Not how you expected the story to end is it? Of course not! We expected Dmitri to just go on with his life as a womanizer with no second thoughts for Anna. To pursue the easy life he loved so much. And Anna to stay with husband and pretend she had never betrayed him. But instead he chose the hard road to be with the woman he actually loves. “And it seemed as though in a little while the solution would be found, and then a new and splendid life would begin; and it was clear to both of them that they had still a long, long road before them, and that the most complicated and difficult part of it was only just the beginning”.