The Lady With The Dog Essay

1849 words - 8 pages

In an interview given to Joe David Bellamy, Joyce Carol Oates explained how she was “putting together a group of short stories called Marriages and Infidelities, which include stories that are re-imaginings of famous stories.” While the stories in her collection were meant to be autonomous, they were also testaments of her love and devotion to other writers who helped her become the writer she is today. She showed her “marriage” to Anton Chekhov by reworking his short story “The Lady with the Dog,” almost a century after the original was published. The “infidelities” consist of transgressions in the form, characterisation and setting, and the shift of the emphasis from male to female characters. Nevertheless, comparing both stories shows that each version does not simply stand aloof from the other—they both complement each other and produce a thorough and complete picture of the plot in the end.
Although the stories follow similar plotlines, their structures differ, and so does the impact the stories have on the readers. Chekhov’s plot unfolds effortlessly since the events follow a chronological sequence throughout four divisions. His plot structure does not deviate from readers’ expectations of traditional fiction, and this greatly facilitates understanding of the story. In addition, the linear plot brings the characters to life—their growth is believable since Chekhov does not fail to expose both their flaws and true motivations in an orderly fashion. In contrast, Oates divided her tale into three sections; moreover, she chose to start her story in medias res, with the climax, and to use flashbacks to describe events that take place before the story begins. By opening her story in this way, Oates makes the characters’ motivations initially unclear to those who are not familiar with the original story. It is only in the third and final part that her storyline is fully developed. While Oates’ departure from traditional standards initially obscures her story, her clever use of flashbacks also validates Anna’s belief that “everything is repeating itself.” This therefore demonstrates and transfers Anna’s turmoil to the readers, who accompany her until both her identity and the story reach completion.
Despite both authors presenting the same characters, each author has approached characterisation differently. Chekhov’s Gurov does not seem like a sympathetic character at the beginning—he is an aging womaniser who speaks ill of his wife and all women. However, he is too weak to confront his wife and only attacks her privately. As the story progresses, Gurov’s love for Anna transforms him into a passionate and sensitive man. In the last part of the story, Gurov catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror, which compels him not only to look externally but to look internally at his soul too. The reflection offers Gurov the realisation that only now has he found love for the first time in his life. Chekhov’s superb craft makes it possible for readers...

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