Chekov's story is about male desire. One possible feminist interpretation of the story would be to evaluate Dmitri's attitude toward women and why it is that he thinks of them as "the lower race" while also being obsessed with them. This interpretation would pay attention to Dmitri's relationship to his...
Chekov's story is about male desire. One possible feminist interpretation of the story would be to evaluate Dmitri's attitude toward women and why it is that he thinks of them as "the lower race" while also being obsessed with them. This interpretation would pay attention to Dmitri's relationship to his wife, who is a forbidding older figure, his emotional immaturity, and the way in which his "gaze" (the story begins with him seeing Anna walking her dog) constructs the woman as an object of desire.
This desire has little to do with Anna, who herself is married—she becomes an object onto which can project his own insecurities. For instance, Dmitri considers that Anna "was a schoolgirl" like his daughters not so long ago, which is a reflection more on his own immaturity than anything else. Similarly, his observation that there is something "pathetic" about her can be read as a comment about his own emotional state. After their affair begins and Anna expresses regret, Dmitri is "bored" with her scruples. It seems ridiculous to him that she should consider herself a "fallen woman," and he is unable to empathize with her in any way.
Another feminist reading of the story would concentrate on Anna. Her desire for "something higher" suggests that she too has personal ambitions but lacks the agency to act independently. Her early marriage to a husband she does not respect was an act of desperation. Her beauty, which attracts Dmitri, becomes a commodity, a source of alienation. She is unable to express this alienation in words other than saying she is a "fallen woman," mistaking shame for lack of agency.
Another reading would turn the story on its head and see Anna as the seducer and Dmitri as her dupe. In this reading, Anna makes a choice to be with Dmitri, and their affair is an expression of her dissatisfaction with her marriage, which mirrors Dmitri's marital unhappiness. Anna, in exerting her influence over Dmitri, is in effect pursuing that "higher place" she desires for herself.
In each case, the common theme is the lack of connection these characters have and their instinctive desire for empathy. Ultimately, a feminist reading would show that it is the sexual politics of desire, inherent in patriarchy, that make such connection impossible.