The Lady with the Pet Dog Style and Technique

Joyce Carol Oates

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The short story is a third-person narrative but is limited omniscient, meaning that the reader experiences events from Anna’s perspective and is directly aware of only Anna’s emotions and thoughts. This technique underscores Anna’s emotional isolation because her ups and downs suggest manic-depressive behavior, as well as an obsessive desire to find fulfillment in a relationship with a man, all driving her to suicidal thoughts.

The narrative perspective also emphasizes that her marriage and affair have the same effect on Anna. With her husband, she feels like a shadow of a woman, strangely detached from life and lacking boundaries, giving way to suicidal thoughts and an abortive attempt at her own life, revealing how little she relates to her own body. After a particularly disappointing meeting with her lover, she splashes water on her face, first leading briefly to suicidal thoughts of drowning but then shifting to homicidal thoughts about her lover and his family. She feels insignificant. Anna fails to realize that, for her happiness, neither man matters, as is symbolized by both remaining nameless.

The metaphor of water plays a central role. Generally a symbol of the unconscious, water is connected to emotional breakthroughs for Anna. She experiences water as something that drowns her and, therefore, triggers suicidal thoughts. In the final scene, she again has suicidal thoughts but then feels flooded by her joyous realization that...

(The entire section is 435 words.)