The Lady with the Pet Dog

by Joyce Carol Oates

Start Free Trial

In "The Lady with the Pet Dog" by Joyce Carol Oates, is there a resolution to the conflict?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

For Anna, there is an internal resolution as her mental processes undergo a shift in philosophical outlook. She comes to view her desirable affair with its undesirable spiritual and psychological affects as a "true" marriage, thus ridding herself of her most torturous internal suffering. Whether the gentleman in question will agree to the new perspective is more dubious.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Yes, I agree with #2 in that Oates gives us a rather depressing ending and one that we doubt is actually a resolution in the sense that we normally refer to in terms of conflicts being resolved. Clearly, the biggest conflict that Anna faces is an internal one, as she struggles between the shame of committing adultery but also the way that her marriage is dead and does not satisfy her needs. However, her decision at the end to entrust herself to a relationship that is based on physical love alone is a somewhat problematic ending. Throughout this excellent story, there is no sense of a relationship that is based on anything except physical longing between Anna and her lover, and so we are left wondering if this decision will leave Anna in a similar relationship down the line as she has with her present husband.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Joyce Carol Oates' "The Lady with the Pet Dog," the resolution to the conflict is a weak one (for her character). Anna first decides that she is unhappy with her marriage and her adulterous affair. She concludes that she will never be able to have a life with her lover...

However, by the end of the story, much to her lover's surprise, she is filled with the conviction that she and her lover will live together in something like a "true" marriage. This seems to provide a resolution to her conflict as she searches for happiness and an answer as to which path she should follow in her life: she chooses her lover.

Although this would appear to offer a resolution for Anna's character, the resolution is as solid as a house of cards. Anna and her lover really don't know each other—their connection is more physical. Anna is deciding to go with her lover not because she has made a logical and intelligent decision: she goes with him because she believes that he will make her complete. A woman who was ready to kill herself at one point has rapidly changed her mind, has pulled herself together, and is ready to gamble her future on a man who is nothing as she imagines him to be.

There may well be a resolution, but it is not a healthy one for Anna.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Is there a dog in Joyce Carol Oates's "The Lady with the Pet Dog"?

In Joyce Carol Oates version of "The Lady with the Pet Dog," yes, there is a dog; the story shares quite a number of similarities with Chekov's version, but Oates makes it her own as well.

Different from Chekov's version, the chronology (order of the story) jumps around. The story begins at a concert, which is actually the middle of the story. The reader has to pay close attention to figure out the importance and relationships of the characters. Both Anna and her lover (who is unnamed) are there, though no one notices the connection between them. Seeing that Anna doesn't feel well, her husband takes her home.

In the story's second section, it is set six months earlier, when Anna resumes her affair. She tries to think seriously about her predicament, but her thoughts are jumbled. She is terribly unhappy and does not want to be with her husband, but she knows there is no future with her lover. When she does return home, she not only contemplates, but she attempts, suicide.

The third section provides clarity for the reader: a deeper understanding of the plot and its characters. It relays the story's events, in chronological order, from start to finish. Anna is at her family's home in Nantucket—however she is there without her husband. She meets a man and his blind son, and their dog. The man sketches pictures of her with his dog. This is where the dog comes in, but it is NOT her dog. This, then, is the starting point for the adulterous affair between Anna and her lover.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on