Jealousy as the cause of internal self-destruction in Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy (Ревность как причина внутреннего самоуничтожения в Крейцеровой сонате Льва Толстого)

Jealousy as the cause of internal self-destruction
                     In “Kreutzer Sonata” by Leo Tolstoy
                    “Jealousy is a fear of someone else’s

                               Alexander Dumas

      The grand collection of the world literature grows faint from the
vast abundance of numerous approaches to the issue of jealousy and adultery
that have been accumulated throughout centuries by different authors.  This
particular topic was used in Greek comedies, Roman tragedies, in writings
of later Romanticists and Realists.  However, only in the nineteenth
century when psychology, developed within, the subject of jealousy in
literature that exaggerated love tales turned to deep psychological dramas
with characters soul-searching within the meticulous analysis of events.
One of the most prominent giants in literature Leo Tolstoy was famous for
combining detailed physical description with perceptive psychological
insight.  He conveys to a reader the bare human intimacy of gestures, deeds
and thoughts of the jealous psychic soul. His story Kreutzer Sonata
examines the basic drives, emotions and motives of ordinary people
searching for answers to the questions of life. One of them is that
jealousy causes internal self-destruction.
      Prior to an analysis of the narrative of the story, where a jealous
husband is presented, the nature of jealousy needs to be illuminated for
the audience.  After hearing the various theories on love by his fellow
passengers on a train, an insanely jealous man named Pozdnyshev blurts out
that he killed his wife, whom he suspected of carrying on an affair with a
violinist.  Then he reveals the story of how he came to such an extreme
      What turned his life into a misery full of disappointment, anger and
itchy craving that ruined his life as well as someone else’s life?
Jealousy. This emotion made his gut ache, his blood boil and his logic
disappear along with common sense.  Pozdnyshev took jealousy and cast it
into self-doubt, insecurity and desperation.  “During the whole of my
married life I never ceased to be tormented by jealousy,” reveals his
confession. (Tolstoy, p.189)
       As Webster’s Dictionary defines it, the word jealous means
“suspiciously watchful; distrustful, or faithless; envious; anxiously
solicitous.”(Outcry magazine, “Making the Most of Jealousy”)  All of these
qualities drove the main character to the murder and absolute self-
desecration.  His life is wretched, he has no motivating objectives left,
no aspirations to follow, no goals to accomplish.  His children are taken
away from him by his sister-in-law, and he is abandoned by the entire
world.  In essence “The Kreutzer Sonata” presents a distorted view of love,
especially of sexual experience. Pozdnyshev’s nightmarish, feverish
narrative of his marriage in its later stages intensifies in rage and
intelligence vanishes as a ravaging emotion of jealousy captures the utmost
      Beethoven’s “Kreutzer Sonata” thrusts Pozdnyshev into ultimate degree
of jealousy that drives him to imminent self-destruction and to the villain
murder.  Music is the most perfect form of art to grasp jealousy over the
mind. It is detached from the hierarchy of all other arts by not dwelling
above them but by creating its own unique world.  Music does not reflect
either ugliness of life or sufferings generated by it. Music, through the
fact of its existence drives off everything that is anxious and annoying.
Music is the rhythm of life, a tender, caring rhythm that banishes any
torment. Indeed, it is not overly complicated to draw a parallel between
music and human emotions in general.  Yet, music was the catalyst that
accelerated the breakdown of Pozdnyshev’s marriage.  The musical
relationship between Trukhachevskiy and Pozdnyshev’s wife is itself a
sensual, sexual one. The intercourse between piano and violin in
Beethoven’s sonata is suggestive of this – and although there is no notion
of any explicitly physical contact between the two, the contact between
violin and piano, as it is described makes Pozdnyshev’s jealousy look well-
      Pozdnyshev claims that it was just one part of Beethoven’s masterpiece
that propels his suspicion to grow into a firm belief in his wife
infidelity.   Psychologists suggest that men react to jealousy with anger
towards their sexual partner and the third party and are more miserable by
sexual impropriety than by mental perfidiousness.  Sexual jealousy is the
threat or perceived threat to a relationship between two individuals who
are physically or sexually involved. (Final Exam: Sociobiological Aspects
of Sexual Jealousy)  Jealousy and murder grow out of and are really at one
with, the sexual attraction, which brought Pozdnyshev and his wife together
in the first place, and which held their marriage together.
      Pozdnyshev accentuates that specifically the first presto of the
“Kreutzer Sonata” is the “exquisite voluptuousness of the senses” and “the
link between them.” (Tolstoy, p. 218)  He is not particularly impressed
with the “common and unoriginal andante’ and “the very weak finale.”
However, the first allegro turns out to be an allegation of his wife’s
adultery.  What animated slide show is running in Pozdnyshev’s inflamed
imagination when he listens to the piece so masterfully performed by his
wife and Trukhachevsky?
      “Kreutzer Sonata” is a very solid, yet unobtrusive piece of music.  It
is flowing into the mood, brightens it up and softens down.  The first
presto is not long, yet it reflects a sinful abundance of passion.  Indeed,
the dialogue of the violin and the piano amazes with its vivacity and
glorification of feelings.  It overwhelms and subdues emotions from the
very first loud piano’s accords and violin singing its second part to piano
on the contrary in a tender, twittering tone.  Then piano is flying into
crescendo and as if waiting for the imminent amalgamation of two hearts
into sweet harmony of an increasing rhythm, it decides to cease to a
voluptuous retreat.  But prior to the immediate withdrawal it sends
sensuous hints of the near victory to the violin.  And if though the violin
senses this hesitation it falls into flirting, mischievous playfulness.
The next swift turns into calamity, sweet exhaustion of piano and violin,
when a dialogue of two is almost sound.  They are questioning, comforting
each other, and perhaps seeking an answer to “maybe not?” But it does not
last long, because the next accords of piano are assertive and irresistibly
inviting. There is a notion of violin speculations and balance upon a thin
line while making the right decision, but the crowning part of the allegro
is the triumph over obstacles, doubts and moral norms.  It is a celebration
of feelings, glory of eroticism and delight of lust.
      This professedly was the Pozdnyshev’s vision of the Kreutzer Sonata
and his interpretation of the performance.  Was it correct? Tolstoy never
gives any explicit and clear depiction of the alleged affair.  However,
very animating and present in Pozdnyshev’s mind, this rendition of music
generated into unrestrained beast of jealousy that drove him gradually yet
inevitably to self-destruction and a murder as a consequence of own moral