Gurov returns to his Moscow routine—going through life with his wife and his daughter, dining out, and entertaining in his bourgeois social circle. It already feels like winter in Moscow. This is a society that he was born to and initially takes some pleasure in returning to. However, all his previous hobbies quickly seem to lose their former charms and he finds them false.
Chekhov again invokes seasonal language to signal the passing of time and contrast the chill of Moscow with the warmth and happiness of Yalta. Gurov has already been changed by Anna, coming to view Moscow society as shallow and dark. Still, Gurov is a Muscovite, and does, temporarily get caught up in the flattery and fine living of his home.
Deep winter arrives, and Gurov still can’t shake thoughts of Anna from his mind. He begins romanticizing their time together in Yalta and to feel Anna’s presence everywhere he goes. He can nearly hear her breathing or the rustle of her skirt. In his memories Anna is even younger and more beautiful, and he, too, is a better version of himself. His torment is all the worse because he cannot tell anyone else about her.
Gurov realizes that the connection he had with Anna is more genuine and significant than anything else in his life. She’s become a part of him, which is why he sees her lurking behind corners and all but hears movements. The fact that he cannot tell anyone about her only ups the intensity of his feelings. The secrecy he has to maintain contributes to him keeping Anna in his mind—she has nowhere else to go.
Gurov has to settle for talking vaguely of love, but even this raises his wife’s suspicions, and she tells him that he doesn’t suit the part of a fop. He obliquely shares the importance the affair has taken on in his mind with an official, but when the man proves to care way more about fish than the story, Gurov grows angry with all of Moscow society. He thinks the world around him is fully of shallow, pretentious people living “wingless” lives.
Gurov comes up with a pretext to go to St. Petersburg to try and see Anna. He takes a hotel room and easily finds out the street where Anna and her husband live. He also learns that they live well and that her husband is known and respected in town.
It seems like it should be harder for Gurov to find this woman whom he has been secretly holding in his heart for months, but it is in fact as easy as asking a hotel porter. She is only secret and dear to Gurov.
Gurov goes to the street where Anna lives and stands by an imposing-looking gray fence just opposite it. He considers what would happen if he went up to the house itself, weighing the possibility that her husband might answer the door and that his showing up on her doorstop might ruin everything. To do so would be “tactless.”
Gurov’s plan to see Anna is comically simple and straightforward—he just posts up outside of her house and waits. Concerns about social propriety once again keep them apart, however.
Gurov decides not to approach the house, and instead watches its comings and goings without seeing Anna. At one point, he hears a piano playing inside and thinks it must be Anna at the keys. Eventually Gurov retreats back to his hotel room and, frustrated, falls asleep.
Gurov trusts that an opportune moment will come for him to see Anna, yet this passive attitude proves futile.
The next morning, Gurov spots a poster for the opera “The Geisha” and decides to attend the premiere on the chance that Anna may also be there. When he goes, the opera is packed, and Gurov judges how provincial and silly both the theater and the crowd is.
Now that he has an eye for the shallowness of society, Gurov only has negative opinions about the pretension of St. Petersburg’s finest. His reaction is colored by how ingenuine he feels the crowd and the whole spectacle to be. “The Geisha” is notably a musical comedy of mistaken identities and people marrying the wrong partners.
Gurov spots Anna amidst the crowd. Despite the fact that she seems outwardly unremarkable in the “provincial” theater, he realizes that she is the light of his life. He cannot help but thinking and dreaming about the two of them being together.
Gurov spots Anna’s husband as well. He is a slightly balding man with side-whiskers who is continually stooping, as if he’s bowing to some superior. Gurov decides that he really does look like a lackey.
Gurov well could be projecting Anna’s opinion and his own opposition onto Anna’s husband and how servile he seems to appear. He does look the part, though.
During the opera’s intermission, Gurov approaches Anna in her seat. He scares her badly with his reappearance, which in turn frightens him. The orchestra starts tuning up and confrontation suddenly seems to Gurov like a terrible mistake.
The moment that is supposed to be the height of romance—two lovers meeting again after a long time apart—is instead filled with tension. Unlike their isolation in Yalta, there are too many eyes on them for Gurov and Anna to be completely genuine with each other.
Anna leads Gurov away from the seats into a staircase off of the main auditorium and, in something of a panic, demands to know why Gurov has come. Despite Gurov’s attempts to explain himself, Anna plows ahead, revealing how both unhappy and still in love with him she is.
Gurov and Anna are as in love with each other as ever. Their lies to themselves about the affair being over were just that—lies. The revelation that Anna feels exactly the same for him as Gurov does for her is tempered by the societal predicament they’re in.
Anna asks what he’s doing and Gurov responds by pulling her to him and kissing her, even as a pair of schoolboys pass them on the stairway and more people appear to coming up behind them. Anna pushes him away.
Gurov is now in a position where he doesn’t quite care if the two of them are spotted, but then again, this isn’t his city. Anna is in more danger than he is, and though she doesn’t deny her feelings for him, she makes sure to push him away. These two aren’t quite in sync yet.
Anna reiterates her love for Gurov and promises to go to Moscow to see him if he leaves the theater, and then she heads down the stairs. Gurov stands there for a moment, and then does as she asks and leaves.
Anna’s unhappiness is threefold: she is terrified of discovery and needs Gurov to leave; she is not happy with her husband and will remain unhappy until she sees Gurov again; she can’t fully embrace a happy life with Gurov because they’re married to other people. All Gurov can do in this moment is as she asks.