The Kreutzer Sonata, by Leo Tolstoy

Chapter VIII.

“And note, also, this falsehood, of which all are guilty; the way in which marriages are made. What could there be more natural? The young girl is marriageable, she should marry. What simpler, provided the young person is not a monster, and men can be found with a desire to marry? Well, no, here begins a new hypocrisy.

“Formerly, when the maiden arrived at a favorable age, her marriage was arranged by her parents. That was done, that is done still, throughout humanity, among the Chinese, the Hindoos, the Mussulmans, and among our common people also. Things are so managed in at least ninety-nine per cent. of the families of the entire human race.

“Only we riotous livers have imagined that this way was bad, and have invented another. And this other — what is it? It is this. The young girls are seated, and the gentlemen walk up and down before them, as in a bazaar, and make their choice. The maidens wait and think, but do not dare to say: ‘Take me, young man, me and not her. Look at these shoulders and the rest.’ We males walk up and down, and estimate the merchandise, and then we discourse upon the rights of woman, upon the liberty that she acquires, I know not how, in the theatrical halls.”

“But what is to be done?” said I to him. “Shall the woman make the advances?”

“I do not know. But, if it is a question of equality, let the equality be complete. Though it has been found that to contract marriages through the agency of match-makers is humiliating, it is nevertheless a thousand times preferable to our system. There the rights and the chances are equal; here the woman is a slave, exhibited in the market. But as she cannot bend to her condition, or make advances herself, there begins that other and more abominable lie which is sometimes called GOING INTO SOCIETY, sometimes AMUSING ONE’S SELF, and which is really nothing but the hunt for a husband.

“But say to a mother or to her daughter that they are engaged only in a hunt for a husband. God! What an offence! Yet they can do nothing else, and have nothing else to do; and the terrible feature of it all is to see sometimes very young, poor, and innocent maidens haunted solely by such ideas. If only, I repeat, it were done frankly; but it is always accompanied with lies and babble of this sort:—

“‘Ah, the descent of species! How interesting it is!’

“‘Oh, Lily is much interested in painting.’

“‘Shall you go to the Exposition? How charming it is!’

“‘And the troika, and the plays, and the symphony. Ah, how adorable!’

“‘My Lise is passionately fond of music.’

“‘And you, why do you not share these convictions?’

“And through all this verbiage, all have but one single idea: ‘Take me, take my Lise. No, me! Only try!”’

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/tolstoy/leo/t65kr/chapter8.html

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