52 pages 1 hour read

Leo Tolstoy

The Kreutzer Sonata

Fiction | Novella | Adult | Published in 1889

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Important Quotes

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Content Warning: This section of the guide discusses violence against women and domestic abuse.

“‘And how, then, can ordinary love consecrate marriage?’ continued the nervous gentleman, still excited, and with a displeased air. He seemed to wish to say something disagreeable to the lady. She felt it, and began to grow agitated.”

(Chapter 2, Paragraph 12)

This quote from the framing narrative gives a perspective of Pozdnychev’s character unaffected by the biased voice that colors his own narration. The narrator presents him in a largely unsympathetic light, as someone who would wish to offend a stranger simply because she disagrees with him. The adjectives used to describe Pozdnychev—“excited,” “displeased,” and “agitated”—emphasize the strong impact that his emotions have on him and the unsteadiness of his temperament.

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“Even if it should be admitted that Menelaus had preferred Helen all his life, Helen would have preferred Paris; and so it has been, is, and will be eternally. And it cannot be otherwise, just as it cannot happen that, in a load of chick-peas, two peas marked with a special sign should fall side by side. Further, this is not only an improbability, but it is certain that a feeling of satiety will come to Helen or to Menelaus. The whole difference is that to one it comes sooner, to the other later. It is only in stupid novels that it is written that ‘they loved each other all their lives.’ And none but children can believe it. To talk of loving a man or woman for life is like saying that a candle can burn forever.”

(Chapter 2, Paragraph 30)

Tolstoy references the famous marital conflict between Menelaus and Helen of Troy that led to the Trojan War—a bloody, decade-long conflict from Greek mythology. This reference illustrates Pozdnychev’s belief in the inevitability of his marriage’s tragic conclusion, since all of the characters involved in the Trojan War were powerless to defy the gods or their own tragic fates. This allusion also foreshadows the events of the novella’s plot in that the relationships described here parallel that of Pozdnychev, his wife, and Troukhatchevsky.

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“His face, while he was talking, changed several times so completely that it bore positively no resemblance to itself as it had appeared just before. His eyes, his mouth, his moustache, and even his beard, all were new. Each time it was a beautiful and touching physiognomy, and these transformations were produced suddenly in the penumbra; and for five minutes it was the same face, that could not be compared to that of five minutes before. And then, I know not how, it changed again, and became unrecognizable.”

(Chapter 3, Paragraph 15)

Several times through the framing narrative, the unnamed narrator references how Pozdnychev’s facial features alter dramatically. This physical transformation symbolizes the inner turmoil that affects