Many stories have the standard beginning, middle, and end structure that can be become very dull and predictable, diminishing the value and quality of a story. However, Anton Chekhov’s short stories brought upon a new era for literature when he introduced short stories with “zero ending” or “non ending” conclusions. Through this concept he can pull off bottom less endings, where the reader is assumed to ponder and wonder what will happen to the characters after the story ends. This paper will discuss this concept by comparing and contrasting Chekhov’s “The Lady With the Little Dog” and “Sleepy” to “The Beggarwoman of Locarno” by Heinrich Von Kleist, a short story with a more traditional standard structure.
In the short story, The Lady With The Little Dog, we are introduced to Anna and Gurov, a couple intertwined in a romantic issue. Their love for each other brings them together, but their respected families and lives prohibits them from expressing their love freely. Even with a period of separation, both Anna and Gurov realize that their own lives bring them unhappiness. For example, when Gurov finds Anna house he sees, “a long grey fence with inverted nails hammered into the tops of palings”. He sees and understands how she is metaphorically imprisoned in a house that promotes unhappiness. To add the level of difficulty to their issue, getting a divorce was out of reach because while it was possible, only in a few and rare circumstances were divorces granted during the period of time of the story. Even with all of these obstacles, they arranged to meet up in Moscow showing their love will take them to such lengths, to hold on to the happiness they find in each other.
With all the tension and drama involved around this couple, and with the story coming near its conclusion, Chekhov finally exposes the climax of the story. It occurs when Gurov realizes his relationship with Anna is just a mirror of his own pathetic life.
His hair was already beginning to turn grey. And it seemed strange to him that he had grown so much older, so much plainer during the last few years. The shoulders on which his hands rested were warm and quivering. He felt compassion for this life, still so warm and lovely, but probably already not far from beginning to fade and wither like his own.
Gurov goes under a transformation as he acknowledges he is seducing this young woman into an unethical relationship, knowing it’s a matter of time before she experiences the same life as Gurov did. Anna becomes a reflection of a younger Gurov, and foreshadows the kind of misery that is in store for her. Their escape from their dreary day-to-day lives brings them into a dramatic tension, that all builds up in the end. Anna and Gurov know that their only way to resolve and untangle this issue is to “think of some plan.” The both of them realize they will live two separate lives, one open and one in secrecy. As the story ends, a new life for the couple begins.