Family Happiness

by Leo Tolstoy

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Student Question

What is the meaning of the Lermontov lines Sergey quotes in the last page of the chapter?

Quick answer:

Sergey quotes the Russian romantic writer Lermontov on the last page of part 2, chapter 1 of Family Happiness as an indicator of his mood after he decides that he and his wife will go to Petersburg. The lines mean that he know that the move is more likely to worsen their problems than to resolve them, but he does not see another course of action.

Expert Answers

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By the end of part 2, chapter 1 in Leo Tolstoy’s novel Family Happiness, Masha has grown discontented with her marriage to Sergey. When they quarrel, he understands that she is bored on the farm and decides that they should travel to Petersburg, a large city, and stay there for a while. Despite his desire to please her, he is apprehensive that the move will make her more aware of the differences between them and put more strain on their relationship.

On the evening of the day they quarrel, she hears him muttering and asks what he is saying. He responds with two lines by Lermontov, which mention a person who in

madness prays for storms
And dreams that storms will bring him peace.

Taking these lines literally, Masha thinks that her husband expects to find peace by agreeing to her wishes and making her happy. She ignores the “madness” aspect of the lines that indicate his uneasiness about the upcoming move.

Sergey is devoted to his much-younger wife and wants to do everything he can to make her happy. He expects their life in Petersburg to be more stimulating and hectic and hopes that Masha will enjoy that kind of. He also anticipates that at the same time the new experiences make her happy, they will also increase her dissatisfaction with the dull farm life and with him. It is likely that by pleasing his wife in the short term, he runs the risk of losing her in the long term.

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