The Kreutzer Sonata, by Leo Tolstoy

Chapter XIV.

“Yes, much worse than the animal is man when he does not live as a man. Thus was I. The horrible part is that I believed, inasmuch as I did not allow myself to be seduced by other women that I was leading an honest family life, that I was a very mortal being, and that if we had quarrels, the fault was in my wife, and in her character.

“But it is evident that the fault was not in her. She was like everybody else, like the majority. She was brought up according to the principles exacted by the situation of our society — that is, as all the young girls of our wealthy classes, without exception, are brought up, and as they cannot fail to be brought up. How many times we hear or read of reflections upon the abnormal condition of women, and upon what they ought to be. But these are only vain words. The education of women results from the real and not imaginary view which the world entertains of women’s vocation. According to this view, the condition of women consists in procuring pleasure and it is to that end that her education is directed. From her infancy she is taught only those things that are calculated to increase her charm. Every young girl is accustomed to think only of that.

“As the serfs were brought up solely to please their masters, so woman is brought up to attract men. It cannot be otherwise. But you will say, perhaps, that that applies only to young girls who are badly brought up, but that there is another education, an education that is serious, in the schools, an education in the dead languages, an education in the institutions of midwifery, an education in medical courses, and in other courses. It is false.

“Every sort of feminine education has for its sole object the attraction of men.

“Some attract by music or curly hair, others by science or by civic virtue. The object is the same, and cannot be otherwise (since no other object exists) — to seduce man in order to possess him. Imagine courses of instruction for women and feminine science without men — that is, learned women, and men not KNOWING them as learned. Oh, no! No education, no instruction can change woman as long as her highest ideal shall be marriage and not virginity, freedom from sensuality. Until that time she will remain a serf. One need only imagine, forgetting the universality of the case, the conditions in which our young girls are brought up, to avoid astonishment at the debauchery of the women of our upper classes. It is the opposite that would cause astonishment.

“Follow my reasoning. From infancy garments, ornaments, cleanliness, grace, dances, music, reading of poetry, novels, singing, the theatre, the concert, for use within and without, according as women listen, or practice themselves. With that, complete physical idleness, an excessive care of the body, a vast consumption of sweetmeats; and God knows how the poor maidens suffer from their own sensuality, excited by all these things. Nine out of ten are tortured intolerably during the first period of maturity, and afterward provided they do not marry at the age of twenty. That is what we are unwilling to see, but those who have eyes see it all the same. And even the majority of these unfortunate creatures are so excited by a hidden sensuality (and it is lucky if it is hidden) that they are fit for nothing. They become animated only in the presence of men. Their whole life is spent in preparations for coquetry, or in coquetry itself. In the presence of men they become too animated; they begin to live by sensual energy. But the moment the man goes away, the life stops.

“And that, not in the presence of a certain man, but in the presence of any man, provided he is not utterly hideous. You will say that this is an exception. No, it is a rule. Only in some it is made very evident, in other less so. But no one lives by her own life; they are all dependent upon man. They cannot be otherwise, since to them the attraction of the greatest number of men is the ideal of life (young girls and married women), and it is for this reason that they have no feeling stronger than that of the animal need of every female who tries to attract the largest number of males in order to increase the opportunities for choice. So it is in the life of young girls, and so it continues during marriage. In the life of young girls it is necessary in order to selection, and in marriage it is necessary in order to rule the husband. Only one thing suppresses or interrupts these tendencies for a time — namely, children — and then only when the woman is not a monster — that is, when she nurses her own children. Here again the doctor interferes.

“With my wife, who desired to nurse her own children, and who did nurse six of them, it happened that the first child was sickly. The doctors, who cynically undressed her and felt of her everywhere, and whom I had to thank and pay for these acts — these dear doctors decided that she ought not to nurse her child, and she was temporarily deprived of the only remedy for coquetry. A nurse finished the nursing of this first-born — that is to say, we profited by the poverty and ignorance of a woman to steal her from her own little one in favor of ours, and for that purpose we dressed her in a kakoschnik trimmed with gold lace. Nevertheless, that is not the question; but there was again awakened in my wife that coquetry which had been sleeping during the nursing period. Thanks to that, she reawakened in me the torments of jealousy which I had formerly known, though in a much slighter degree.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/tolstoy/leo/t65kr/chapter14.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:04