Bartleby, the Scrivener & the Lady with the Dog

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A number of the stories studied this semester explore the conflict between social restraint and inner compulsion. Discuss at least two of the stories in the light of this.

Through an exploration of the boundaries between social constraint and inner compulsion, Melville and Chekov reveal the restrictions forced upon one’s personal desires as they struggle to find a balance between conflicting values and social norms. Anna and Gurov in ‘The Lady with the Dog’ are restrained by the socially expected conventions in their marriages, inhibiting their ability to express their inner compulsion of desire. Chekov reveals their yearning to escape their individual lives as they cope with personal troubles by distancing themselves from marriage through a sexual relationship with each other. When away from the city of Yalta, their lives seem their own without the social constraint forced upon them; however, in the presence of others their marriage binds them, forcing them to question their affair. Through lingering silences their relationship reveals passion yet also the underlying sorrow that Anna feels for betraying her husband. During these moments of silence, they struggle in a personal battle of questioning, perplexed by the conflict between their inner compulsions and the restraints of society as they are unable to fully indulge themselves in their passion for each other. The image employed by Chekov of the “long grey fence” (Chekhov 1998, p. 371) keeping them apart alludes to this sense of restraint and personal desires as a symbol of restriction. The fence keeps Gurov from Anna, fending him from her as their love is forbidden in the eyes of society. Their freedom is held within this fence as their desire cannot fully be embellished under the guise of society’s rules. While in Melville’s ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener’, Bartleby shows the uprising of a world of preference where his inner compulsions drive him to defy all rules of social constraint. In order to live,...
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