On holiday in Yalta, Muscovite banker Dimitri Gurov contrives to meet a young woman who walks her dog. She’s Anna Sergeyevna, trapped in a loveless marriage to a lackey. He’s unhappy in an arranged marriage. With neither spouse at hand, Dimitri and Anna begin an affair. After a short time, she returns to Saratov, he to Moscow, believing it’s good-by forever. All winter he is miserable, enervated, distracted by tristesse. In desperation, he contrives to go to Saratov, surprising her at a concert. Fearing discovery in her home town, she promises to come to Moscow. Will they cast aside reputation to live together, or will theirs be an affair of infrequent encounters in hotel rooms?