Comparing Anton Chekhov's And Joyce Oates' The Lady With The Dog

1623 words - 6 pages

Anton Chekhov wrote a short story in 1899, entitled "The Lady with the Pet Dog." It is about a love affair seen from the eyes of the involved man named Gurov. The story occurs in nineteenth-century Russia, in a town called Yalta. Joyce Carol Oates, in 1972, did a wonderful job of rewriting the story, changing the protagonist from the man to the woman. Her version also changes the setting to Nantucket Island in twentieth-century America. Looking at both stories, one can learn a lot about the couple's affair. Although the man and woman have different motives and ways of dealing with guilt, both condone the relationship while still married to separate people.

There are three factors which all affairs contain: factors that "shove," factors that "pull," and "societal" factors (Vaughan 1). At the beginning in each story, Gurov is "pushed" into the affair; just as he was pushed into his marriage and work He is a Muscovite, married by arrangement to a woman who gave him three children. He considers his wife "of limited intelligence, narrow-minded, dowdy" (Chekhov 166). He went to school to study literature, but because his wife did not find it admirable, he now works at a bank(Callow 313). He is downcast because of his shortcomings and forced circumstances, and therefore feels shoved into looking for other options. Consequently, he cheats on his wife, a practice he began long ago, having affairs partly because his wife "loved without sincerity, with too many words" (Chekhov 168). Because of his wife, he refers to all women as the "inferior race" (Chekhov 166).

He finds that he prefers the company of women because men make him feel uncomfortable. With women, he feels free to discuss anything or even sit in silence (Chekhov 166). He pretends he does not want women only because he has not yet found the woman who will not demand what he cannot offer. The author, Anton Chekhov, himself had this problem. Lika, an actress with whom he had an affair, compared Chekhov to Gurov, and said that both need women "for when there's a spell of bad weather" (Callow 316). Neither could "live without `the inferior race' for two days" (Chekhov 166).

In contrast, Gurov's lover, Anna, has never before been involved in an affair. She is "pulled" into it because of the excitement. Unlike Gurov's disgust for his wife, Anna does not hate her husband. He poses no threat to her. They were married young and from the beginning of their marriage, they did not know how to communicate: "For years now they had not been comfortable together" (Oates 179). When he tries to make love with her, she feels nothing emotionally. She feels almost as if she is asleep (Oates 179). She just lies there while he does whatever he wants, operating on her (Oates 182). Consequently, she lives with her husband "lovelessly, the two of them polite strangers, sharing a bed" (Oates 189).

She is intrigued by the affair because it is exciting and secretive. After...

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