Leo Tolstoy is one of the most prominent Russian writers whose is renowned worldwide. His works are characterized by a profound philosophical context and his ideas are original and different from conventional views of people on such themes as love, marriage, art, and others. In this respect, the theme of marriage is one of the central themes of his works since he repeatedly raised this theme and he managed to reveal the complexity of the concept of marriage.
At this point, it is possible to refer to his works “Family Happiness”¯ and “The Kreuzer Sonata”¯, in which he revealed that marriage is extremely complicated and relationships of spouses are often full of mysteries even for themselves.
On analyzing both works, “Family Happiness”¯ and “The Kreuzer Sonata”¯, it should be said that they are similar in a way. To put it more precisely, the main characters of both works have some false expectations in regard to their own marriage. At the same time, in the course of their family life they reveal the fact that their actual marriage is quite different from what they have expected before they married. In such a way, Leo Tolstoy emphasizes the complexity of the marriage, which is unpredictable and people can never foresee what will happen to them after the marriage. In this respect, it is possible to trace certain pessimism of the author in relation to the marriage because the main characters are disenchanted in one way or another in their marriage.
Nevertheless, each work written by Leo Tolstoy has its own original plot and the life story which produce a profound impression on readers. In this respect, it is possible to refer to “The Kreuzer Sonata”¯ which is actually a tragic story of the family life of the main character and the failure of his marriage. In fact, the main character, Pozdnyshev, has extremely skeptical views on the marriage. He speaks about the extramarital liaisons as something inevitable. He argues that there are no ideal marriages and spouses always deceived each other.
At the same time, the main character reveals his patriarchal views and his words reveal his scornful attitude to women. In his conversation with other people. he manifests his nature of a male chauvinist. To put it more precisely, he treats women as absolutely inferior to men. He views women as second class citizens who are imperfect and who cannot be truly independent of men. In stark contrast, he argues that women are objects, which men use for the satisfaction of their desires and needs. Instead, he positions men as absolutely superior compared to women. In such a context, it is hardly possible to speak about any equality of men and women. Obviously, such judgments of the main character influence his family life dramatically.
Ironically, his marriage reveals the extent to which he was erroneous in his views on women. In fact, he believed that women are inferior and, therefore, they are unable to independent actions. Therefore, he strongly believed that his wife is totally obedient to him and she is a kind of slave of his, which has no rights and liberties. Naturally, Pozdnyshev did not admit the possibility of any love affair his wife could have with other men, but he admitted and justified the deception of wives from the part of men. He argued that women provoke and seduce men, but he considered that men have the right to deceive their wives. On the other hand, he never admitted the possibilities of deception from the part of women, especially his wife. As a result, he was shocked when he found his wife with a lover. This fact ruined all his philosophy and belief in the marriage and gender roles men and women were supposed to play in the marriage. He was outraged to the extent that he murdered his wife, but let her lover escape. In such a way, the author again shows the patriarchal nature of Pozdnyshev. Tolstoy shows that the main character punishes severely his own wife, mainly because she was a woman and it was she who debunked his belief in the supremacy of men over women. She ruined his philosophy according to which it is only men who are allowed to have extramarital relations, while women are totally obedient to their husbands. At the same time, he let the lover to escape because he was a man and he met the philosophy of the main character, according to which men are allowed to have extramarital relationship.
Thus, in “The Kreuzer Sonata”¯, Leo Tolstoy reveals quite original, male view on the marriage according to which men are dominant and absolutely free in their actions, including their freedom to have extramarital relations, while women are totally obedient and faithful. However, in his work, Tolstoy debunks this myth and shows that marriage is often accompanied by mutual lie and deception of spouses.
In his “Family Happiness”¯, Leo Tolstoy develops his idea that expectations of people before marriage, their views on marriage are quite different from the real marriage and the real family life. The main characters of the novella are Mashechka and Sergey Mikhaylych. This is quite unusual couple because Mashechka is much younger than Sergey Mikhaylych. Nevertheless, after an awkward courtship, they decide to marry and their family life begins. In this respect, it should be said that the title of the novella, “Family Happiness”¯ is quite ironic. In fact, before the marriage, Mashechka had a very naĆÆve view of the marriage. Her views were extremely idealistic and she did not believe that the marriage could be as complex as it proved to be in the real life.
After the marriage, Mashechka is apparently disenchanted with her marriage because it did not meet her expectations and idealistic views. As they moved to Sergey Mickaylych, Mashechka reveals the fact that the marriage is much more complex than she initially expected. She is apparently unprepared to such a kind of family life, which becomes a real burden for her. The disenchantment of the main character in the marriage is similar in a way to that of Poxdnyshev. In this respect, it is possible to speak about similarities of the two works in their presentation and views on marriage. Basically, the main characters’ original expectations and dreams never come true. Instead, they confront a severe reality of the family life which is far from perfect and happy. In fact, both Pozdnyshev and Mashechka have an idealistic view on marriage. In the case of Pozdnyshev, his idealism is determined by his male chauvinism and patriarchal views on gender roles and relationships between men and women. As for Mashechka, she is simply a naĆÆve, young girl who has a very vague idea of marriage. As a result, she is naturally disenchanted when she reveals the real family life. Pozdnyshev is also disenchanted but his disillusioning is probably more painful because his views and beliefs in relation to marriage turn out to be totally wrong.
Thus, taking into account t all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that Leo Tolstoy depicts the marriage and family life in all their complexity. Remarkably, in such short literary works he managed to reveal the essence of the marriage and the huge gap between the image of marriage people have before they marry and the actually family life, when people have been already married. In this respect, it is possible to interpret his “Family Happiness”¯ and “The Kreuzer Sonata”¯ as a warning to people who are going to marry. In fact, the author attempts to draw the attention of readers to the fact that marriage is a very complex concept and the life of spouses in marriage is full of difficulties and challenges. However, people often come unprepared to such challenges and the main characters of both works have proved their unpreparedness to learn the truth about the marriage. In fact, such disillusioning is very painful for both Mashechka and Pozdnyshev. As the matter of fact, their marriages are total failures, but they cannot change their life. In such a context, any attempts of liberation from marriage are doomed to failure since they deteriorate the life of main characters even more.