In Anton Chekov’s short fiction, ‘The Lady with the Pet Dog’, we are introduced to Dmitry Dmitrich Gurov, the main character. Gurov is trapped in an unhappy marriage with a stately young woman who he has loathed for some time. Due to his disinterest with his wife, he has “begun being unfaithful to her long ago-[and has] been unfaithful to her often..” Due to his unfaithfulness and attitude towards his wife, we can assume that Gurov has little respect for women, whom he calls ‘the inferior race’”. However, after meeting the alluring Anna Sergeyevna (The Lady with the Pet Dog), he seems to become enamored with her: “There was something touching about Anna Sergeyevna; she had the purity of a well-bred, naïve woman who has seen little of life”. Her innocence and purity seem to entrance him, unlike the women he finds himself more frequently associating himself with. Because of this, it can very easily be argued that Anna is symbolic of the innocence and youth Gurov craves that his wife lacks. Another highly important aspect of the story is the setting. The beginning of the story, when Dmitry and Anna first meet, is set in a small resort town. The resort town affects the way that the characters interact with each other. In the small town, far from the watchful eyes of their spouses, Anna and Dmitry can be openly affectionate and bask in the freedom and adventurous thrill that their affair provides. The resort town is also highly symbolic of the state of the relationship between the two lovers: it is warm, exotic, free and relaxed. However, when the two return to their respective homes, they become different people in the new settings. For example, when Dmitry returns to Moscow he is greeted by frigid air, darkness and monotony. This is very symbolic of the life that Dmitry often lives: a life that he does not enjoy where he is surrounded by his frigid, dull wife, monotonous children and routine and the overall darkness of his life. Anna returns to similar conditions as well.
The Joyce Carol Oates short fiction by the name, although set many hundreds of years in the future, holds a similar concept. We are introduced to Anna, who has been cheating on her husband with a man whom she met while on a vacation in Nantucket away from her husband. Anna is a woman with a guilty conscience and suicidal tendencies; “She would rush home and strike a razor across the inside of her arm and free that pressure, that fever” (pg 217). Because of this we can also assume that the affair, for her at least, is highly symbolic. She seems to want to feel something, whether it be pain or love, and the affair provides her with both the pain of defiling the trust of her husband and the love of having another man in her life. The setting, in this story, also plays a huge part in character development and symbolism. Once again, the resort town setting provides for a relaxed, free setting for the characters to fall in love before returning to their respective spouses.
Shall We Compare?
The first, and easiest comparison that can be made between the two short fictions is, in this case, the titles. Although written by two different authors, the similar titles allude that there may be similar themes running throughout. In fact, almost the entirety of Oates’s fiction runs linearly to Chekhov, with modernized references. There are also illusions to the story within the story, such as the mention of “The Lady with the Pet dog” in a drawing on page 213. The fact that the drawing, made by the man with whom she is having the affair with (the Dmitry Gurov of this story), portrays Anna with a pet dog sitting in her lap alludes to the fact that the man may have read Chekhov’s short fiction and thinks of Anna in Nantucket as his very own Anna Sergeyevna. The presence of the man’s child and the lack of the woman’s as well as the obvious and prevalent age difference also provides a parallel reference to Chekhov’s short fiction.