Conception of Love in The Kreutzer Sonata
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 until he was thirty. Before that, he lived as a libertine, according to the victorian love tradition (an evolution from the courtly love tradition), which supported an important sexual market. “It is that the maidens sit around and the men walk about, as at a bazaar, choosing.” At an early age, he had lost his innocence in a bordello, and from that point on was only able to see women as objects of desire, of sexuality. From then on, he had multiplied conquests, passions, intrigues, up until he met his future wife. There was something more about her, something which lured him “into a trap.” He decided on the spot (love at first sight) that it was she, that he would marry her and no...