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Laptev, the rich but unattractive scion of a merchant, renounces his independent-minded, intelligent, devoted, but equally unattractive mistress Polina in order to marry the beautiful young gold-digger Yulia. Their life together quickly deteriorates into a loveless agony, Laptev seeking some sort of meaning in his life while Yulia whiles away her youth with the sparkling young Moscow social scene. The compelling question of the story is whether or not Laptev and Yulia can redeem something of lasting value from what seems to be a hopelessly empty relationship. Here Chekhov again explores the subtle dilemmas of modern conventional marriage and its effects, both positive and negative, on the hapless humans caught up in it.
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