The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910 discussion

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2018/19 Group Reads - Archives > The Kreutzer Sonata - Ch 1-7

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message 1: by Robin P, Moderator (last edited Jun 02, 2018 12:04PM) (new)

Robin P | 2227 comments Mod
The story starts with the setting on the train and the miscellaneous passengers. It was common in the 18th and 19th century to have the narrator hear the main character's story (or find it in an attic) to make it seem more realistic. We really don't know anything about the actual narrator.

What do you think of the directness of the subject matter? Can you think of other authors of the time who are as frank? Are the story teller's expectations of both men and women unrealistic?


message 2: by Linda (new)

Linda | 230 comments I was definitely surprised by the direct approach by the storyteller to relate his views of his, and all young males, introduction to and “normal” interactions with women at such young ages. And that the storyteller himself has given such deep thought to this subject, although perhaps that may be a direct result of his murdering his wife so he’s had a long while to wonder at the root cause of his actions.

Anyway, I was expecting a different approach to how this story is told, such as it being told as the story unfolded, rather than the murderer telling his story in retrospect.

I found it interesting in the notes section of my book that it said that Tolstoy also made the mistake of showing his fiancé his diaries like the storyteller here relates.


message 3: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1435 comments Mod
I agree, it's a different approach hearing the story from the murderer's perspective, with him having analyzed his motives. I'm looking forward to reading more.

The double standard he presents still exists today to an extent.


message 4: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1932 comments Mod
I was also surprised by the directness of the subject matter, and it will be interesting to see how the POV is expressed and who agrees with what parts of the tale. It is interesting that the female perspective is presented by a woman who is clearly portrayed as being middle aged/unattractive/mannish-are we meant to think less of her opinion because of this?

As an aside, I like the train setting-I've taken a couple of long-distance train trips (including one from Vancouver to Toronto over 3-4 days) and because there are long stretches with no WiFi access there is a lot of conversation among the passengers, and there is a certain amount of flux as some people are on the trip for the whole time, some get on and off at different points. I think there is a certain freedom to speak your mind among a group of people you're not likely to meet again.


message 5: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4497 comments Mod
Lori wrote: "I agree, it's a different approach hearing the story from the murderer's perspective, with him having analyzed his motives. I'm looking forward to reading more.

The double standard he presents sti..."


I think the double standard is alive and well, unfortunately. This is p an interesting time to be reading this with it being the age of #metoo and Incel.


message 6: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4497 comments Mod
Frances wrote: "I was also surprised by the directness of the subject matter, and it will be interesting to see how the POV is expressed and who agrees with what parts of the tale. It is interesting that the femal..."

Great point about the appearance of the woman and validity of her viewpoint.


message 7: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1435 comments Mod
My Russian friend said the same thing about trains, that he likes them for the same reasons. When he was writing a novel, he also included train conversations.


message 8: by Gem , Moderator (new)

Gem  | 796 comments Mod
Robin wrote: "The story starts with the setting on the train and the miscellaneous passengers. It was common in the 18th and 19th century to have the narrator hear the main character's story (or find it in an attic) to make it seem more realistic. We really don't know anything about the actual narrator."

I didn't know that. My exposure to 18th and 19th-century writing is incredibly limited so this is good to know.

What do you think of the directness of the subject matter?

It didn't strike me as odd as that approach is pretty much how we discuss issues now. However, after reading the question the directness was probably shocking for the time period. It actually reminds me of the internet, where folks can be open and honest about the worst part of themselves because they are sitting behind a computer screen and aren't facing anyone.

Are the story teller's expectations of both men and women unrealistic?

I think so, however, I'm viewing what is happening through a 21st-century filter/perspective. I have no idea what the social norms were at the time (except things appeared on the surface to be more modest) or in that country. I realize the societal ideas and norms change over time, but I also believe they change form place to place.

What really struck me, in the first seven chapters, is that the story as Posdnicheff is telling it is very autobiographical. Tolstoy's behavior as a young man was what Posdnicheff described, right down to giving his fiancee his diaries/journals to read. I'm excited to read the next section to see how closely the story mirrors Tolstoy's life.


message 9: by Robin P, Moderator (new)

Robin P | 2227 comments Mod
Good point about anonymity. Today it is the internet, and at the time a train trip could serve the same purpose, telling your story to people you won't see again in real life.


message 10: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
What strikes me after reading these chapters is the almost didactic tone of the murderer. This is how it is-so listen to what I tell you- in other words. I don't know if he is jaded or if he is justifying to himself why he killed his wife.


message 11: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4497 comments Mod
Rosemarie wrote: "What strikes me after reading these chapters is the almost didactic tone of the murderer. This is how it is-so listen to what I tell you- in other words. I don't know if he is jaded or if he is jus..."

Yes you’ve hit the nail on the head here.


message 12: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
My copy of the novella contained a section called The Lesson, in which Tolstoy talks about the ideas behind the story.
He really did feel that way about marriage.


message 13: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1932 comments Mod
I've borrowed The Kreutzer Sonata Variations: Lev Tolstoy's Novella and Counterstories by Sofiya Tolstaya and Lev Lvovich Tolstoy which includes our novella but also an epilogue by Tolstoy and "counter stories" by Tolstoy's wife and children. I've just finished TKS but am planning to read the others as well to see how the rest of the family responded to this rather shocking (if indeed it was felt to be autobiographical) novel.


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