The Lady with the Pet Dog
Joyce Carol Oates novel “The Lady with the Pet Dog” is a story which portrays a the modern woman from the contemporary modern set up in a realistic manner through offering insights into the happenings of their lives. Through the use of a modern context the author seeks to analyze the life of the main character by bringing to light what may be deemed unfair and even if with an unintentional bias. Taking into account that the author is female we may understand the motivation and the background informing of the story. Her goals and intentions in portraying the modern woman are clearly set out in this story through an analysis of how the protagonist of the story is presented to the reader through the various roles she plays. The theme of the story is denunciations of the stereotypes that have been propagated in the modern society and how they persist even in the modern times.
The author seeks to denounce the stereotypes which are normally associated with women through the depiction of Anna as the epitome of the modern woman. The text is in a constant quest to offer insights into the mind of the modern woman through the story of Anna, the protagonist. The story given is a kind of a rebuff to the story of the same name by Anton Chekhov, it seems that the author is determined to offer a feminist perspective as opposed to Chekhov who concentrated on the male protagonist. As such, it may be asserted that the author aims at offering insights into the modern woman through the protagonist – Anna.
Oates also seeks to condemn the common stereotypes that have been attributed to women due to the popular literature such as those that portray Eve as a sinful seductress or Mary being portrayed as the perfect person. However, the author is unsuccessful in distancing his protagonist from either stereotype giving the strong assertions to the contrary. While Anna is on vacation she is portrayed as having a passionate longing for flying outward to meet another person (Smith 69). Given intentions of the author assert that women ought not to be looked at from the stereotypes the aforementioned, it is surprising that Anna meets a stranger and invites him to her house and to her bed. It is the first day of Anna on that beach and she asks the man if he is accompanied by his wife which may imply that the moral deviation had been planned from the day she decided to take the vacation. This is an instance which clearly portrays the seductive Eve’s stereotype the author denounces.
The author portrays the modern woman in a realistic manner as opposed to the saintly stereotype expected of the women in literature. The main character, Anna, is an antithesis to this since her behavior is contrary to the stereotype of the time honored in the practice of women behavior. She believes that correct behavior is to be dictated by instinctual behavior and it makes the woman happier rather than adhering to the time honored standards of behavior (Smith 76). Anna is portrayed as the savior of womanhood from the stereotypes through being depicted as a liberated and enlightened person. However, this brings up the question on whether she could be realistically cast as the archetypal modern women regardless of being placed on a pedestal which is akin to the saintly Mary stereotype. Her behavior is also shown as conflicting, as she also answers to the seductive and sinful Eve’s stereotype.
Women’s lives are portrayed as being influenced by the stereotypes of the society. Much as women would like to assert that they are free from the stereotypes of literature and their society, Oates asserts that this is not the case in reality. Anna is plagued by shame and guilt throughout the story, as it would be expected by anyone who has been brought up in a stereotyped society. It would be expected that having engaged in an immoral act Anna would feel guilt and shame. This leads to repeated contemplations of committing suicide by the protagonist. Through Anna’s constant oscillation between love and hate for her new lover coupled with her constant confusion results into a conclusion that women may be deemed indecisive and whimsical persons. A good example of this is the statement “He turned to her and smiled and she felt that she loved him, that everything in her life had forced her to this moment and that she had no choice about it” (Smith 193). This is an assertion of women’s lack of choice despite the change in the times.
An assessment of Anna’s character is intended to portray women as being calm and contented in the face of societal stereotypes and challenges they present. Anna seems to be very happy and content even with all the difficulties she is facing. The modern woman is freer being given the advancements in the society. The happiness cannot be attributed to her understanding of who she is or her having fallen in love with her lover but rather because she has the luxury of divorcing as opposed to the women from the earlier time. This may imply that Anna became involved with the stranger with awareness starting from the time when she was planning to go on that vacation. She was fully aware that her husband was not offering her all she wanted and that she deliberately sought out somebody else to fulfill her needs. The author asserts that a woman has the right to leave if she becomes dissatisfied with her marriage since all it takes is a few signatures. The author brings up an important issue of whether divorce ought to be a means of escape from stagnation or whether it should be a last resort as portrayed by the guilty feelings of Anna. “Ah, what despair!—what bitter hatred she felt!—she needed this man for her salvation, he was all she had to live for, and yet she could not believe in him” (202). The author seems to assert that marital carelessness is a direct consequence of the contemporary woman who deems herself liberated from stereotypes.
It may be asserted that the contemporary context of the novel “The Lady with the Pet Dog” makes it not relevant taking into account Anna’s actions in being unfaithful to her marriage. Marriage infidelity has been a feature in society for as long as the institution of marriage. On the other hand, it is not possible to confidently assert that Anna is given the possibility to divorce which informs her actions for the duration of the story. The legal and social context of Anna’s society may, however, lend credence to the assertion that she may have adopted the notion of easy divorce as the story unfolded. The author thus analyzes the implications of changing contemporary norms in the context of changing stereotypes. The author asserts that changes in the society have not necessarily resulted in more freedom as Anna asserts “She would rush home and strike a razor across the inside of her arm and feel that pressure, that fever” (202) which shows the increased pressure on the modern woman.