Monday, October 3, 2011

Chekhov and Oates

Last night I read Joyce Carol Oates' story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" It's amazing and the story developed along lines I didn't see coming. The changes of characterization are very skillfully done and the ending, well. You just have to read it.

Today I'm reading Anton Chekhov's story "The Party." I cannot help but compare and contrast the first two chapters of this story with the party that makes up the last third or so of Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs Dalloway. Clarissa Dalloway is much more in control of her surroundings than is Olga, the protagonist of the Chekhov tale. The general type of party is the same, but the moods of the hostesses are radically different. We know that Virginia Woolf read Chekhov.

In Chapter III, Olga's guests have taken to boats and are heading out to an island for tea and snacks. It is around six in the evening. I cannot help but compare this to the similar party/boating scene in D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers. David Lawrence also read Chekhov; you can see it in Lawrence's plays.

Do I gain anything with all of this comparison and contrast? Probably not, but it happens independent of my intention. I claim no responsibility for the operations of my brain. Reading is an interesting experience, nicht wahr?


  1. "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" is my favorite story of hers. I knew girls like Connie in high school. I imagine everyone has known a Connie.

    The story was made into a movie whose title I've forgotten with Laura Dern and Treat Williams. It wasn't very good and it ended differently, not too suprisingly.

  2. I have a couple of cousins who the Connie character remind me of, certainly. I don't know the film but I'm not surprised they rewrote the ending. "Where Are You Going..." was written in 1966! I should read more Oates. I'll bet she's got a ton of great stuff I don't know yet.

    This morning I'm reading Chekhov again. "Terror" and "A Woman's Kingdom." I could use one of those frivolous early Chekhov stories, frankly. Some days old Anton can be a real downer. Is anyone ever not unhappy?