Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
One spring night a railway train speeds across Russia. In one of the cars a sprightly conversation about the place of women, both in public and in the home, is in progress among a group of aristocrats. One of the listeners finally breaks into the conversation with the statement that Russians marry only for sexual reasons and that marriage is a hell for most of them unless they, like himself, secure release by killing the other party to the marriage. With that remark he leaves the group and retires to his own seat in the car. Later on, he tells his story to his seat companion.
His name was Pozdnishef, and he is a landed proprietor. As a young man, he learned many vices, but he always kept his relationships with women on a monetary basis, so that he would have no moral responsibility for the unfortunates with whom he came in contact. His early life taught him that people of his class did not respect sex. The men viewed women only in terms of pleasure. The women sanctioned such thoughts by openly marrying men who became libertines; the older people allowed their daughters to be married to men whose habits were known to be of a shameful nature.
At the age of thirty, Pozdnishef fell in love with a beautiful woman of his own class, the daughter of an impoverished landowner in Penza. During his engagement he was disturbed because she and he had so little about which to converse when they were left alone. They would say one sentence to each other and...
(The entire section is 1126 words.)
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