The official got into his sledge and was driving away, but turned suddenly and shouted: 'Dmitri!' 'What?' 'You were right this evening: the sturgeon was a bit off!' These words, so ordinary, for some reason moved Gurov to indignation, and struck him as degrading and unclean. What savage manners, what people! What senseless nights, was uninteresting, uneventful days! The rage for playing cards, the gluttony, the drunkenness, the continual talk always about the same thing. Useless pursuits and conversations always about the same things absorb the better part of your time, the better part of your strength, and in the end you are left with a life earthbound and curtailed, just rubbish, and there is no escaping or getting away from it—just as though you were in a madhouse or penal servitude.

This quote is taken from one of Chekhov's most famous tales, "The Lady with the Dog." Its protagonist, Dmitri Gurov, is fed up with his small-minded existence and cannot forget his innocent lover Anna. The interchange between Gurov and the official is comic yet insightful, and Chekhov uses it to show readers the shallow concerns of Moscovite society.

Gurov describes his situation as though he were imprisoned or incarcerated like a lunatic. This is not unique to "The Lady with the Dog": many Chekhovian tales examine the theme of incarceration and entrapment. Whether bound by impoverished circumstances or the dull monotony of their provincial lifestyles, most of Chekhov's protagonists nurture a sense of dissatisfaction with their lives.