In Dostoevsky's "A Christmas Tree and a Wedding," how did Mastakovich marry the little heiress after having scared her at the children's party? Is there a moral in this story, and if so, what is...

In Dostoevsky's "A Christmas Tree and a Wedding," how did Mastakovich marry the little heiress after having scared her at the children's party? Is there a moral in this story, and if so, what is it? 

Asked on by dalalm

2 Answers

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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We are not exactly told how Mastakovich is able to marry the little girl, but it seems pretty clear.  He is in some way "superior" to the family of the little girl.  They are rich, but he must still in some way be "better" than them.  Since this story is written and set in Tsarist Russia, you can assume that he has a title or that he is in some way politically important.  Because of this, the girl's family is happy to have him marry their daughter.  So Mastakovich gets to marry her because of his status and because the girl's family wants to be connected to him.

To me, the moral is that the society of this time and place was hopelessly corrupt.  Mastakovich is physically and morally repulsive and yet he is sought after.  Even though he is horrid, the family is willing and even eager to have their young daughter marry him.  People of this time are shown as greedy and unaffected by more human considerations (the girl's parents don't care about her happiness, for example).

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Money and business are at the center of the success of Julian Mastakovich in marrying the beautiful daughter of "the business man."

While the narrator of Dostoevsky's story secludes himself from the other party guests in the conservatory, one other guest enters. This "personage," as the narrator describes him, is named Julian Mastakovich. And although he has just met the host, Mastakovich has been eagerly conversing with the rich girl's father. Thinking he is alone since he has failed to notice the narrator, he calculates aloud the interest that would be gained on the three hundred rubles that are the dowry of the business man's pretty daughter. Then he conjectures further,

"But the shrewd old fox isn't likely to be satisfied with four per cent. He gets eight or even ten, perhaps. Let's suppose five hundred, five hundred thousand, at least, that's sure. Anything above that for pocket money--hm--"

After his excited calculations, Mastakovich rubs his hands together greedily, dances around, and then, having seen the little daughter playing with the governess's son, the businessman goes over to her and kisses her on the head. The child is startled by this gesture that is like "the greedy eagerness of a boy," and she cries out. Mastakovich tries to soothe her by asking her about her doll. He asks her whether if he comes to see her later, she will love him.

Later, the narrator overhears Mastakovich flattering the mother of the pretty girl. The businessman and his wife both enjoy his attention. In fact, the wife invites Mastakovich, referred to by others as "the great man," to visit them again, and he eagerly accepts. This action indicates that she and her husband favor him for some reason that is probably connected to money. Mastakovich's quick calculations in the conservatory and his knowledge of the businessman's financial interests suggest that he has a role in monetary transactions.

It would seem, then, that the moral of this story is the propensity of the Russian upper class of the time to place material values above others.

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