There are many debatable similarities and differences between Checkov s Lady with a Pet Dog set in Russia in the early part of the century and Joyce Carol Oates Lady with a Pet Dog told from Anna s point of view in the 1970 s in Nantucket. However, Oates modernization makes the story lose a lot in translation . The modernized version lacks the romance and appeal that Checkov s version possesses and doesn t have the same flair due to the modern setting, Anna s madness, and lack of depth in the support characters and Oates over all writing style.
First off the settings play a large role in how the story is perceived. Checkov s tale takes it s setting in the ends of Imperial Russia. Russia is still very much an elegant and envied world power. The splendor of the circle in which his Anna and Dmitry live is obvious by their taking vacations to the coast and by the way their families are described. His story hails from the same time period as the legendary Anna Karienna. They share the same themes of love and loyalty. In Anna Karienna the theme is also about adultry by a woman who is devoted to her family but finds passion in the arms of another man. The richness of the scenes in Checkov s story only adds to the romantic flair of the tale. The scene in which they sit and look at the countryside with the description of the fresh morning air and the nearby town accompanied by the eloquence of Checkov s portrayal of the characters thoughts and feelings in the scene gives the story a soothing and inspiring romantic flair.
Oates story lacks these characteristics. It s modern settings-on a beach, in a bathroom, in a hotel room, coupled with the moderness of the character s thoughts and feelings leave the reader depressed and anxious. There is very little about the writing of this story that gives the reader any sense of hope or uplifting. Perhaps the description of the man and his son on the beach and the beach itself are the most romantic descriptions in the entire story and yet they feel lacking in the necessary flowery words of description, which would help bring about a sense of ambiance.
Oates adaptation on the story by making Anna somewhat mad also detracts from making this story one of true love. The vileness of Anna slicing away at herself as she ponders her existence does not conjure romantic thoughts to the mind of the reader. The way the story is told in a cyclical form leaves one confused on the first read through and it is only the second time around that most recognize that she is not only scatterbrained but actually suffers from some form of dementia. The notion was disheartening and didn t allow for much bonding or relating with the character, not that this characterization of Anna had any uplifting or inspiring moments or qualities. Her viewpoints and outlooks on society and especially her mood rub off on the reader. The depression seeps in from the first time she cuts herself and carries through dragging the reader deeper and deeper in until the closing period on the last sentence.
Another notable difference in the two works is Oates elimination of depth in her support characters. She does very little to describe their lives, thoughts or feelings and they seem to be only shadows in the background. Oates goes so far with her non-characterization that she fails to even give her support characters names! Instead they are known to the reader only as the blind man and his son . Most readers are left wanting more from these characters. (What does the man think of this situation? Does he love this Anna? What does he want from her? What does this man feel about his own family?) A love story traditionally has two sides to it. True love is love from both parties and it s questionable in this work if even one party is in love. This all seemed too much like an over-dramatized, made for TV movie that had some how been misplaced and wound up in the bindings of a collection of literary works.
If Oates sought to show the modernistic, feminist point of view of this story she gave a bad impression. This Anna is not nearly as strong-willed as Checkov s and she seems to lack a recognition of honor, duty and loyalty to her family or to anyone. Oates has to even make her a victim in the story by inflicting her with madness she is such a weak character. The dementia she is inflicted with turns the reader off from identifying with her too closely and almost makes the reader feel sorry for this Anna and view her as pathetic.
In Checkov s story, his Anna seems to grow and progress in the story, perhaps learning lessons from Dmitry but in the end, nevertheless she feels strong enough to deal with the world around her and with the struggles that may arise from being Dmitry s lover. The reader has gone through a change with the character, with both characters, and having been rooting them on the reader feels a since of pride and joy in the end. The progression of the story almost has a fairytale ending and though Checkov does not share his final thoughts most assume that Dmitry and Anna will have a fairly happy existence together in the future.
Oates leaves no room for her Anna to have a happy future. At the end of the story most will agree this is merely an account of an adulterous quest for sex and self-appreciation. Oates Anna has decided to have two men in her life, one that gives her great attention and great sex and another who pays her bills and keeps her in the lifestyle to which she is accustomed. Her blatant use and disregard for men shows her obvious disregard for love and doesn t inspire and positive feelings towards her. If anything the reader may feel sorry for the men in her life.
Though the stories are similar and the reader can tell that Oates vaguely took her idea from Checkov the results are so different that it seems definitely two different stories. Chekov s story is passionately romantic, sweeping the reader off into the wealthy society of late imperial Russia. His characters have knowledge and feel bound by the old values of their society. These characters are not static but progress and grow together. They seem to inspire one another and bring joy and light to the other s mundane existence. This story makes the reader dream and hope.
Oates story is depressing and cold in its look at society and its pictures in the 70 s. Anna s story is not a very inspiring one to any believers in true love. The story is painted very gray lacking splashes of color or zeal that more descriptions of both characters and scene might have brought. The cyclical plot is confusing to the reader and then to discover that Anna suffers from a madness adds even further to the depression forced on the reader. Anna s cutting issue and her viewpoint of men as disposable somewhat is contra-romance and does not leave room for any touching moments in the story. Oates lack of character depth-in contrast to Checkov expressing for readers his character s thoughts and feelings-leaves the reader feeling cold and untouched. The story is so cold that it leaves the reader desiring to read it first and get it over with before immersing themselves in Checkov s Lady with a Pet Dog to actually enjoy themselves.