Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Russia. Tolstoy’s native land is the setting for all his fiction, which typically focuses on family problems. In his view, the human mind is the place where everything starts: love and hate, marriage and murder, and the family is a micro-unit of society, showing health or sickness of the whole body. This novel is Tolstoy’s “peep show”—attempt to analyze causes of failed marriages. The conflict between human physical needs (sex) and spiritual (moral) needs, created by the strict Christian upbringing in patriarchal Russia is further complicated by the inequality and bigotry in raising male and female children, therefore not preparing them for a successful marriage and family life together. The natural differences in male and female needs and roles are further complicated by the clash between new, modern ideas (of women’s liberation, among others) and the old societal mores, resulting in unhappy individuals and couples, psychological problems, neuroses, domestic violence, and murder.


Train. Tolstoy uses a train speeding across Russia metaphorically and symbolically to reflect his view of the Russian high society headed toward a fast moral and social disintegration brought by civilization from the West. Construction of the huge trans-Siberian railroad, a costly project, greatly diminished arable land and impoverished many landowners and peasants. For these reasons, Tolstoy treats trains as...

(The entire section is 485 words.)