Personal Transformation through Love

The stories “The Lady with the Dog” by Anton Chekhov and “The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck depict a boring life of the main characters who perceive love through misery and despair. Chekhov portrays the destiny of each protagonist whose feelings are involuntary, and they themselves look like miserable victims of the circumstances determined by fate. It means that they have no strength to control their positions in life being placed in the worst conditions, but the presence of love may change their attitude towards the surrounding and themselves. As for Steinbeck, the author concentrates on love for flowers, and this simplifies Elisa’s way of thinking about her life. The woman exists in her small world surrounded by tenderness and sincere love expressed by the chrysanthemums. Thus, love contributes to the protagonists’ transformation through widening their horizons after they realize the sense of life as the gift of destiny.

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In the story “The Lady with the Dog”, Chekhov demonstrates that love has a power to transform the protagonist and their perception in regard to the concept of love. The primary events begin in Yalta as one of the most attractive places due to fresh air from the mountains and the Black Sea. However, the main characters seem to be unhappy because they consider life meaningless and uninteresting, despite the fact that the beauty of the environment might comfort their suffering souls and hearts. From the very beginning, there is something touching and tender when the narrator mentions a lady with the dog and her presence in a cute city – the city of pleasure and joy. When the woman appears in Yalta, she spends most of her free time only with her dog. The words “She was walking alone, always wearing the same béret, and always with the same white dog; no one knew who she was” show that solitude is an integral part of her life, and that is why there is no place for love (Chekhov n.p.). Moreover, the dog is the only creature that somehow consoles and entertains its owner instead of the woman’s husband who needs to be close to his wife. Perhaps, one may suggest that the presence of the dog is meaningful as it is associated with the irony of life. In fact, the pet is a symbol of a small amount of true love to the woman; it is important to note that the pet is always close to Anna in contrast to her husband.

Love brings hope to the protagonists who are forced to leave each other being unable to oppose the cruel reality. The story of two characters, Anna Sergeyevna and Dimitri Dimitritch Gurov generates sympathy, and the lack of details in relation to the woman’s life creates some foreshadowing to reinforce the narrator’s feelings and emotions. Even though their love is painful and does not bring enough moral satisfaction to both of them, Anna and Gurov have an irresistible desire to taste it as something delicious. Evidently, Gurov perceives love according to his spoilt values which are different from Anna’s ones. The narrator describes Gurov’s nature through a wrong behavior indicating, “Experience often repeated, truly bitter experience, had taught him long ago that with decent people…every intimacy, which at first so agreeably diversifies life and appears a light and charming adventure” (Chekhov n.p.). It means that the man does not appreciate love at all, and he is probably unaware of its sense because it is nothing more than an entertainment. As for Anna, she does not love her husband, but her betrayal bothers her like a torture. Her mind cannot accept the so-called opposition, and thus, she says, “I have been deceiving myself for a long time… now I have become a vulgar, contemptible woman whom any one may despise” (Chekhov n.p.). The woman blames her behavior, and her constant revelations about her dishonest deed emphasize that she has not lost consciousness. On the other hand, a new romantic relationship contributes to her changing as a personality that dares to love.

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Life motivates Anna Sergeyevna and Gurov to act regardless of the fact that both are married, and the society may condemn them. When the story progresses, it is clear that their unsatisfied lives compel them to become lovers. Anyone may wonder whether love and the feeling of happiness are enough to alter the perception of the protagonists or not, but it is the beginning of a new life which might bring more than just a sexual satisfaction. It is the end of isolation which destroys them as personalities who can love for the sake of their mental salvation. They realize that the rest of the world will never accept their love due to high morality and the existing stereotypes. The most interesting thing is that Gurov, who has never loved before, falls in love with Anna in spite of all his expectations. This affair becomes a vital part of his life, and his soul lacks peace while being far away from Anna. That is what a real love means! It is pain and happiness at the same time even if it is necessary to hide it from the external world. The words “he felt profound compassion, he wanted to be sincere and tender” show that love has a positive impact on Gurov as a man who lost his dignity long ago (Chekhov n.p.). Thus, this transformation makes the protagonist perceive life in another way as he turned to tenderness and care which unite two wounded individuals.

In contrast to Chekhov, John Steinbeck presents a limited understanding of love which is hidden from a human eye as it relates to a tender care for flowers. In the story “The Chrysanthemums”, the author focuses on a detailed description of the chrysanthemums planted with an unbelievable love and emotions. These flowers symbolize not only the woman herself but her limited will. In fact, the main character, Elisa merely adores these charming flowers; she spends most of her free time taking care of them. Being a young woman, she pays attention to the chrysanthemums more than to herself. It is obvious that they are everything she has in her life, and nothing and nobody can replace them. One may see that this kind of love is different. If Chekhov connects this feeling with two individuals, Steinbeck attempts to reveal it through love and adoration for flowers that resemble living creatures. The words “No aphids were there, no sowbugs or snails or cutworms. Her terrier fingers destroyed such pests before they could get started” emphasize how thoroughly Elisa worries about her flowers which are precious to her soul (Steinbeck 1). One may say that only chrysanthemums make her feel happy while living in loneliness, despite the fact that she is married. Perhaps, this fact is similar to Chekhov’s story as isolation does not allow his protagonists to become free and blessed.

As for the tone of each story, anyone can realize that the plot is created in a sad mood, but the main characters’ transformation also changes the initial mood. A little hope for a better future shows that Anna, Dmitri, and Elisa intend to learn the sense of life through love – either love to each other or love for nature expressed to the chrysanthemums in case with Elisa. In contrast to Anna who is weak and uncertain in her actions, Elisa is a strong woman who does not experience any regret towards herself. Her life is closely connected with the Salinas Valley as a precise symbol of her emotional state of desperation. She lives an ordinary life and does not try to change the reality being content with her favorite deed called gardening which fills her routine with pleasure and peace. However, she feels miserable when the tinker appears in her life by making her “wake up”.  In fact, Steinbeck does not show that Elisa’s husband, Henry Allen loves her, and this fact probably adds to her depressive state in which she has been living for a long time. The words “Elisa’s eyes grew alert and eager” illustrate her flirt which grows like fire (Steinbeck 4). It is evident that the chrysanthemums are associated with her hidden tenderness and strong character at the same time. Thus, her attitude towards flowers reflects her passion left unnoticed by Henry Allen whose inattention affects her current state.

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As for the man’s story, both Chekhov and Steinbeck feel compassion for his unhappy life. The authors explain that he needs to change his attitude towards his wife even if he is lost. According to Chekhov, if there is love inside him, he is the only one who has power to revitalize his marriage. The author claims that it is easy to make an irretrievable mistake by divorcing, but it is hard to create something special. That is why there is no need to separate from each other during these hard times of their life. He thinks that all married couples may have a certain period when their relationship gets worse. Everything seems to fall apart, and a husband feels depressed. Chekhov also states that the birth of the child may unite the couple as a new life may inspire him to value the most sacred moments while taking care of their baby. Steinbeck supports Chekhov and adds that one common deed will be very useful for a husband and a wife because they will spend much free time together while solving problems. On the other hand, Chekhov suggests the man to take his wife and go to the sea to gain freedom through morality and spirituality they will get from the power of the sea.

In conclusion, “The Lady with the Dog” by Anton Chekhov and “The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck are incredible stories that may teach anyone that love may change the whole life. Love is a driving force as it compels the protagonists to start valuing the sense of life while experiencing segregation after they have fallen in love. On the other hand, love towards flowers leads the main character to new discoveries concerning her outlook and views. Undoubtedly, both stories allow everyone to realize that people often lose their chance to be happy due to the waste of time.

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