The Lady with the Pet Dog Questions and Answers
by Joyce Carol Oates

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What is the theme of "The Lady with the Pet Dog" by Joyce Carol Oates?

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The overriding theme of Joyce Carol Oates "The Lady with Pet Dog" is summed up in Anna's ending realization that for her, her affair is a true marriage of hearts. Oates presents a paradox first presented, in slightly different terms, in Anton Chekhov's original "The Lady with the Pet Dog." The paradox Oates presents is that love of the heart and marriage of the heart can come from something that has driven one to thoughts of ending one's life and is unlawful, while that which is lawful is empty and false. Chekhov presented it slightly differently through Gurov's realization that real life, the pursuit of wealth, social standing, position, and family, is unreal and that a secret hidden life is real. Through this story Oates explores this paradoxical theme that asserts that the boundaries establish in social order and regarded as identifying right and wrong are upturned in the paradox (paradox: what cannot possibly be true but nonetheless is true, e.g., a caterpillar is a butterfly or absolute freedom is selfishness).

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