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Chekhov's version of the story is written from the man's standpoint, involving himself and Anna, a woman (with a pet dog), who he meets on vacation. They begin an adulterous affair.
The man (Dmitri) is used to having affairs, and they generally end with his disgust over how something so beautiful becomes so ordinary--every time. He has nothing but a superficial relationship with his wife.
When he meets Anna, and then they ultimately part, he believes it to be just another one of his flings. He waits for the memory of their time together to fade with time, but he cannot forget her. Dmitri goes to find her in her home town. She has also been missing him terribly, and though horrified that he has sought her out where she lives, she agrees to travel to Moscow, where he lives, to see him. Hence, the affair resumes.
There is a child in the story: Dmitri's daughter. At one point he walks with her, drops her off at school, and continues on to meet Anna.
When they are together, Anna and Dmitri cannot seem to find any hope of happiness, as both are married, but still they continue to see each other. Seeing himself in the mirror one day at her hotel, he sees himself as an older man with a young woman, and he wonders what she sees in him. At the end of the story, there is a sense that though they know it will be difficult, Dmitri and Anna will continue with the affair, looking for a solution, however difficult.
In Oates' version, the story is told from Anna's viewpoint. Whereas Chekhov relays in a chronological order, in four parts, Oates writes her version in three parts; the parts do not follow a chronological order, and it is not until the third part that the entire story, in the order in which the events actually take place, is made clear.
The story is set in the United States, whereas Chekhov's version was set in Moscow and its surrounding areas.
The story refers to Anna's lover, but in this version, the lover has no name, he has a son who is blind, and the lover has the dog.
There are many similarities, except that this version shows us the inner turmoil of Anna more than that of her lover. And whereas she suffers in Chekhov's version, the description in Oates' version is much more poignant for Anna, and we learn that she is not only terribly unhappy, but suicidal. We also get a glimpse of Anna's husband in Oates' version as they clumsily make love the evening that the lover comes to town. In this we get more information regarding the husband as a real person, whereas Chekhov's version paints him more as a shadow.
Chekhov's version leaves the reader hanging, not simply because there is no clear plan between the two, but also because Dmitri's reactions are often so bland. However, Oates' style is very different, perhaps reflecting the differences in these two characters. In Oates' version, Anna, still downhearted and suicidal (perhaps a more passionate main character?), is able to believe that somehow the relationship (though seemingly hopeless) will work out; at the end, she surprises her lover with excitement and enthusiasm at the prospect of a future together.
In both stories, Anna sees herself as a low and vulgar woman because of her infidelity; she is unable to face her unhappy life with her husband and so continues on in the affair. Both versions fail to provide clear closure, and the reader is left to wonder, as do the main characters, exactly how the lovers will ever solve their dilemma.
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