Both “The Lady with the Dog by Anton Chekhov and the retelling of the story, “The Lady with the Pet Dog” by Joyce Carol Oates are stories of a love that was once lost. They are stories of adultery and secrecy, romance and lust.
Although the plot of the two stories are almost identical, where a man and a woman both unhappily married to their own spouses meet by chance and eventually fall in love, the voice and the point of view of each story make them each a unique and different piece. Both titles refer to a dog and in both versions the dog plays a key role. both versions of the story, the pet dog serves one of the most important parts.
In Chekhov’s telling the white Pomeranian sets Anna apart from the rest of the woman. It is the key to why Gurov recognizes her. Evidently had Anna not had the white pup he probably never would’ve noticed her again because one of his flaws is that he views woman as all the same. It Oates’ telling, the role of the puppy is reversed.
The pup is a reference to “the stranger” and also causes their first meeting by drawing Anna’s attention. It’s almost the typical rouse that a single man with a dog or a baby can catch a woman’s attention faster then a man alone. The purpose of this is that a man with a dog is more approachable.
It makes women open to talking to a stranger and that is exactly the purpose of the dog in Oates’ story. The dog gives Anna the greenlight when she firsts meets “the stranger”. It can be concluded that without the dog, there is no story.
In the original story told by Chekhov, the two lovers first meet while on vacation in 19th century Yalta. Gurov, the main character, is a man who no longer loves his wife. He cannot relate to her, he has lost faith in his marriage, and thinks of her as an unintelligent woman. Gurov goes on to say that she is not as high class and educated and he wants her to be and so as his opinion of his wife continues to fall he becomes very lonely and has many affairs.
He wants to find someone to fill the void he feels he has in his heart but none of his affairs last until he meets Anna, who is both high class and intelligent, but she is married. Luckily for him, she is unhappy in her marriage as well. Gurov is a man who typically only thought of the sexual aspect of a relationship. He never cared about the emotions and the intellectual aspect of a relationship until Anna shows him that he does not need just a body but needs someone to connect with on a deeper and more intimate level. He wishes to find someone who he can share his thoughts and feelings not just physical love. Nonetheless, Anna is everything Gurov wants in a woman but Gurov doesn’t realize this until Anna returns home. At this point in the story the setting changes to Moscow, Russia.
Gurov returns to his daily routines but Anna remains on his mind. He travels to her town but she refuses to meet him there and so she promises him that in Moscow they will meet. The affair continues in secrecy until they realize that because they live miles apart the love they have must come to an end. Joyce Carol Oates published her version of the story decades later.
She not only adds a more modern view to the story, but she brings out a feministic side by telling the story through the eyes of the adulteress, Anna. The plot remains the same in her version, as well as the characters but she drastically changes the plot. In Oates story, the reader is no longer in Yalta and 19th century Russia, but 1970’s Nantucket, Michigan.
These simple twists in the story have a significant impact. In 19th century Russia, women were viewed as objects, they were not allowed to divorce, and it was essentially a man’s world. However, in 1970’s rural America, the exact opposite was happening. In the 70’s women were finding a voice.
Feminism was popular, and woman were beginning to crawl out from oppression. In the version written by Oates, Anna meets “the stranger”. Simply by making Anna the focus and stripping the male lead of his name, Oates changes the entire perspective of the story. It has now become Anna’s story. One of the major differences in the two versions of the story, is the sequence of events. Chekov chose to write the original story in chronological order.
The structure of Oates’ story accents Anna’s personal conflict. She has moral obligations of marriage, nonetheless, she loves the stranger. Oates’ gives Anna complexity. She is guilty of her secret life, she has real feelings which are shown through her actions. Chekhov’s version has a much simpler approach. It does not touch upon Anna’s full thoughts because it is the story of Gurov’s affair.
Chekhov’s story begins at the beginning like most stories do. Then, the main characters meet and begin their affair. The story reaches its climax as Gurov travels to find Anna and expose his true feelings. This then leads to the falling action and resolution where both characters realize distance is too much of a barrier and they agree their love must come to an end. However, Oates chose to tell the story in three parts. She begins at the climax by introducing Gurov as a stranger. The story then flashes back to the beginning, the reader learns how the two lovers met and how they came to that point in the theater. Furthermore, in part three the stories bounce back forward to the falling action and comes to an end by retracing all three parts.
This literary choice gives the reader Anna’s point of view during the climax. In Gurov’s version of the story she fears being caught by her husband. In Oates depiction the reader can see Anna’s anger. This gives the female role strength and more depth by allowing her to feel upset that her lover has appeared.
The reader can now see she is torn in her feelings. She loves Gurov because he offers her something her own husband does not, which is excitement, purpose, true love and trust. Nonetheless, her guilt is exposed. She feels remorse for her husband because she is having an affair with a stranger. As a matter of fact, her guilt runs so deep that she contemplates committing suicide. She does not want to face her husband and the consequences for her actions it is just too much for her to bear. By the end of Oates’ version, Anna realizes she doesn’t want to die and she no longer wishes death on her husband, thus she continues her affair in secrecy because she has found her “destiny” in Gurov. Although there are many differences in perspective and the obvious differences in setting, both stories express the idea of double standards.
Cheating and affairs, no matter what the time or place, effect men and women very differently. Neither one of the male characters regrets cheating or lying to their significant others. They don’t value the institution of marriage like the female characters. It can be argued that neither do the women because they participate in acts of adultery. However, both woman is torn apart by their actions. They are rendered with guilt and remorse. Social values when it comes to cheating are plain and simple, men are allowed, it is acceptable and almost expected, women are held to a higher standard. The main conflict for Anna reflects this because she questions how she can continue being with the man she loves even if it violates her morals and values, Gurov doesn’t even question how this will all effect his wife.
The most obvious similarities in both stories are the plot and the resolution. Nonetheless, the voice of the story, the emotions, and the characterization of the main characters give each piece their uniqueness. Chekhov’s original piece is a depiction of his time. It is a masculine story with little to no insight on the female role. It is a vivid depiction of a love affair from the point of view of the only character that matters for that time, Gurov.
Oates’ version is also a depiction of her time. Women’s voices matter more decades later and therefore Anna’s thoughts and emotions are presented, and the story revolves on a female’s inner conflict. There is a saying that every story has three versions, his, hers and the truth. By reading both stories, the reader has insight to the man’s point of view and the woman’s. Interpretation offers the reader their own truth of the events that took place in this sexual love affair between two torn characters.