While both the original and the reworked versions of “The Lady with the Pet Dog” are interesting stories, Anton Chekov’s is more compelling than Joyce Carol Oates’s due to a point of view from a different character, a stronger main character overall, and a more intriguing setting.
In these two stories the account of what takes place is told from opposing sides of the relationship. In Chekov’s version of “The Lady with the Pet Dog,” the story is told from the perspective of the male side of the couple. Dmitry Dmitrich Gurov is a forty-year-old banker who lives in Moscow along with his wife, daughter and two sons. His major internal conflict in this tale is that he has never been able to make a legitimate connection with someone of the opposite sex and considers women ” the inferior race” (Chekhov 102). He cannot find any emotional worth in his interactions with other people, and most specifically in this story, women.
Anna Sergeyevna is the character that Oates uses to give the main point of view in her adaptation. Anna is a troubled housewife from Nantucket, Massachusetts who lives with a husband for whom she has little affection. Her primary difficulty is that she has substantial self-image issues. She cannot comprehend anyone finding her existence significant, which is exacerbated by an unaffectionate relationship with her husband. Anna is wrought with suicidal inclinations and has at least on one occasion acted on these impulses. “But the bath water made her dizzy, all that perpetual heat, and one day in January she drew a razor blade lightly across the inside of her arm, near the elbow, to see what would happen”. (Oates 394) Anna’s neurotic behavior does not mesh well with what this story was initially intended to depict, a love story where the main character experiences great emotional growth.
Of these two principal characters Gurov is the more driven, proactive character, Anna being far more passive. In Chekov’s story, Gurov is consistently the driving factor for all of the advancement in the developing relationship. “He beckoned invitingly to the Pomeranian, and when the dog approached him, he shook his finger at it.” (Chekhov 103) This action of engaging the woman’s dog is the catalyst that sets off their entire relationship. Had Gurov not taken the initiative to call to Anna’s dog this entire scenario would not have taken place. Later after their initial affair it is Gurov who travels to Anna’s hometown in search of the woman with whom he is enamored. Again he is responsible for the continuation of the their involvement.
Conversely, In Oates’s story Anna rejects every opportunity to engage the man that she is secretly admiring. ” To talk or not to talk – she had the freedom of that choice. For a moment she felt that she had made a mistake, that the child and the dog would not protect her, that behind this mans ordinary, friendly face there was a certain arrogant maleness – then she relented, she smiled shyly.” (Oates 398) Anna’s passive approach does nothing to further the story and her attitude continues throughout. Even though the story is told from her perspective she feels more like a secondary character and it is the male half of this duo who is more fascinating.
Because both of these texts are romantic short stories, it is imperative that the author effectively creates an absorbing backdrop, which Chekov achieves, and where Oates falls short. Chekov’s version takes place in 19th century Russia among majestic locations such as Moscow and Yalta, where one can easily imagine such a torrid love affair taking place as they stroll along a grand avenue enjoying the picturesque scenery.
Oates’s depiction of a woman traveling through 1970’s New England falls flat in comparison. With such exotic locales as Nantucket and Albany the modern story fails to match Chekov’s depiction and lacks an imposing presence that aids in creating and engaging any interest in the outcome. As opposed to a tale of romance and excitement, Oates’s story comes across as a morose drama.
In conclusion, it is because of Chekhov’s better approach, superior characters, and more appropriate background that his is the better rendition of this tale.
Chekhov, Anton. “The Lady with the Pet Dog” Literature and its writers. 4th ed.
Ed. Ann Charters and Samuel Charters. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins,2007. 102-114Oates, Joyce Carol. “The Lady with the Pet Dog” Literature and its writers. 4th ed.
Ed. Ann Charters and Samuel Charters. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins,2007. 391-404
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