Chekhov vs Oates

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EngLit 0325
In 1899, Anton Chekhov wrote a story titled “The Lady with the Little Dog” describing a love affair from a married man’s perspective. Seventy-three years later, Joyce Carol Oates wrote her own rendition of the same story, this time writing from the female perspective, titling it “The Lady with the Pet Dog”. Many feminists had criticized Chekhov for his original portrayal of women in the original story, and considered Oates’ version a feminist rewrite. Contrary to this opinion, upon further analysis of both versions, it is revealed that the two points of view serve to complete the story rather than to justify only the man or the woman’s perspective.

Both stories are written from a third person limited point of view, meaning Dmitri and Anna are not narrators themselves, but rather the reader is told what their thoughts are by an unknown narrator. Feminists often criticize Chekhov for an excerpt in particular from “The Lady with the Little Dog” in which Dmitri’s thoughts are revealed concerning his wife: “He secretly considered her none too bright, narrow-minded, graceless… [He] was unfaithful often, and, probably for that reason, almost always spoke ill of women, and when they were discussed in his presence, he would say of them: “An inferior race!”” (Chekhov 266). This vast generalization of the female population on its own is obviously degrading and (ironically) narrow-minded in itself. However, the third person point of view allows the narrator to counteract Dmitri’s ignorance in the next paragraph, saying “yet he could not have lived without the “inferior race” even for two days” (Chekhov 266). Dmitri’s character at this point in the story is exactly what feminists take issue with in Chekhov; however, it cannot be applied to the story as a whole. In Oates’ story, fewer broad generalizations are made about the male race, though Anna’s husband is depicted in the same one-sided manner that Chekhov uses toward Dmitri’s wife....
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