Monday, March 24, 2014

Tolstoy's mad man on a train

"You know I am a sort of lunatic" (190).

Unlike most people on the far right, Tolstoy's Pozdnyshev (I'm reading it "Paused-nyeh-shev") at least admits to his madness. And he certainly lives up to his own admission.

Claiming that the Jews pull the strings of business in Russia. Claiming that love is perverse because, despite all of the ideals spoken of around it, its end is sex. Claiming that marriage is selfish. Claiming that children are a nearly intolerable source of worry and sparking point for spousal strife. Claiming that doctors conspire together to cure things that need no curing in any other animal. Claiming that the end of humanity is to come to a peaceable generation in which point the selfish and passionate need to love and be loved will cease and humanity will end. 

I won't say that it's all crazy. As a mouthpiece for Tolstoy's own beliefs about marriage and love, his thinking that love and marriage are at the least curious alternatives to what we still hear of the ideals of love on all media fronts. 

Though Pozdnyshev's reasons for believing what he does are to be found in his own experience - and there alone. That is, he does so, and readers are free to do so as well. His experience has not been very positive, however. 

He rushed into a marriage with a women that he really only had physical interest in. 

Not knowing much about her own desires he was left with little choice other than to agree reluctantly to having children with her. 

And these things done, his opinion of the doctors with whom he interacted fell to that of leeches. 

To top it all off, he has extrapolated from his own experience and painted everyone else with the same brush. 

So this short story about a random pulling aside our nameless "reader-stand-in" character and sharing his story has changed from being about someone pulling you aside to tell you about their day to being about someone pulling you aside to tell you how the world is run by lizard people via supersonic frequencies emitted by smartphones. 

No comments:

Post a Comment