Perhaps Tolstoy's short story, “The Kreutzer Sonata”, truly captures one definite conception of love, albeit a very negative one. To understand more what is brought to light in this story, we need to take a look at it, more importantly at the character of Pozdnychev.
Pozdnychev has just spent several years in prison for the murder of his unfaithful wife, as we find out early in the story. His tale is a sordid one, as he relates his past life, before his wedding, the meeting of his wife, their marriage, their dreadful relationship up to the murder itself and the tribunal. What is interesting in his story remains the unique perception he has on love, on marriage, and on society in general.
The first important element he brings into evidence, which clearly establishes his state of mind, has to do with his motive for killing his wife, and the understanding he has of that action.
“'They asked me at the trial with what and how I killed her. Fools! They thought I killed her with a knife, on the 5th of October. It was not then I killed her, but much earlier. Just as they are all now killing, all, all...'”
He does not see his killing blow as the murder, only as the final outcome of the path they were on from the beginning. It was inevitable. The passion which had prompted them to marriage could not be maintained. It vanished, it went away, and they were left with nothing to say. Their only bond was through physical contact, sexuality. They only found their purpose in their “swinish connection.”
Podznychev adds a second element, opening the door on the social practices of his time, particularly those of young men in their prime. He himself did not get married...
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...at was deemed natural at a certain time. Hawthorne's short story does the same thing, this time criticizing another set of social values associated with love.
Tolstoy's unique elaboration on the subject gives us a new option. The eccentric Pozdnychev presents the whole in a dark setting. Once again, these protests come from an observation of society, not from an understanding of love as a concept. What Pozdnychev strives for is a change of hearts, the bettering of his fellow men. Love should be exalted, and poetic, and sensual, but it is not. If it is not, it is because society and state have made it such, by legalizing prostitution, by encouraging young men to debauchery.
Truly, a new approach is being introduced, the idea that social conventions dictate the nature of love as we see it, that it all depends on the perspective of a person or a group.
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