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The Devil 
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Post Re: The Devil
Which ending do you think is most realistic?

I'm turning this over in my mind, and I'm thinking that Eugene's character wouldn't allow him to kill himself, that he would continue to blame Stepanida.



Tue Oct 12, 2010 4:52 pm
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Post Re: The Devil
Suzanne wrote:

Tolstoy seems to be requiring the reader to make a moral choice when he gives us two endings. Which one do we pick? We must pick one. And we have to ask ourselves, why did we choose the the ending that decides Eugene's fate?

"Phosphates justify", hmmm? I have no idea what this means. I do know that if a writer repeats certain words again and again, it must mean something.


This was an intensely personal story for Tolstoy who later in life became very religious and ashamed of the excesses of his youth. I believe this story was intended as a parable of sorts, which is why he quotes scripture at the beginning. Tolstoy may have not meant to publish The Devil at all. It was published posthumously with both endings. He must have not been very satisfied with the first ending because he wrote an alternative ending for it. But in my opinion, the second ending isn't very satisfactory either.

I suggested this story because I have already read it and also because I think it's such an interesting story. (I even wrote my own alternative ending which works pretty well even if I can't come anywhere close to Tolstoy's style and tone.)

The alternate ending begins in Section XX right after the line—"Kill? Yes. There are only two ways out: to kill my wife or her. For it is impossible to live like this." But it seems to me in both of his endings, Tolstoy paints Eugene into a corner where the only possible way out is for someone to die: either Stepanida, Liza, or Eugene himself. But this seems to me something of a false trichotomy, if you will. Tolstoy seems over-committed to ending the tale with violent death. It seems unnecessarily melodramatic.


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Tue Oct 12, 2010 6:55 pm
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Post Re: The Devil
Yes, I agree when you write: "...was intended as a parable of sorts." It seems so straight forward, like a lesson a child might be taught. I wonder if many of Tolstoy's short stories are like this? I feel Gogol wrote differently, and less in a linear fashion.



Wed Oct 13, 2010 6:16 pm
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Post Re: The Devil
So...do we choose another short story? Have we all finished discussing The Devil???



Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:03 am
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Post Re: The Devil
Although I did not like either of the endings, I think the story almost required the death of someone. The Bible passage that is quoted in the beginning speaks of cutting off the offending body part to save the soul from damnation. How do you cut out feelings of lust without causing a death? Of the two endings, I have chosen the first one to decide Eugene’s fate. He considered killing his wife and child at one point, this shows a major mental disorder. How do you cut out a mental disorder without causing death? The “devil” had to be killed, that would be Eugene, as Eugene saw it.

“The most mentally deranged people are certainly those who see in others indications of insanity they do not notice in themselves."

This quote lends itself very well with the second ending. The devil became Stepanida. The devil had to be killed, as Eugene saw it.

geo wrote:
I even wrote my own alternative ending which works pretty well even if I can't come anywhere close to Tolstoy's style and tone


You didn't think this would go unnoticed or ignored did you? I would like to read your variation of the ending. :)

reader2121 wrote:
So...do we choose another short story? Have we all finished discussing The Devil???


Reader, why don't you choose the next one.



Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:03 pm
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Post Re: The Devil
Suzanne,
I agree. It is a sociopath who blames his lack of morality on someone else.



Thu Oct 14, 2010 5:11 pm
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Post Re: The Devil
lindad_amato wrote:
Suzanne,
I agree. It is a sociopath who blames his lack of morality on someone else.


But Eugene seemed like one who could not kill himself. He did not seem to be a strong-willed character, so, I felt it would be more like him to kill Stepanida.



Thu Oct 14, 2010 5:36 pm
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Post Re: The Devil
I choose: Gogol's "The Nose."

Here is the text:

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Nose_(Gogol/Field)

I haven't read this yet, but I know it's a classic of Russian Literature.

Shall we begin this Monday?



Thu Oct 14, 2010 5:39 pm
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Post Re: The Devil
The link isn't working...I don't know why?

You will find the complete story at Wikisource, or Google it. Sorry.



Thu Oct 14, 2010 5:41 pm
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Post Re: The Devil
reader2121 wrote:
lindad_amato wrote:
Suzanne,
I agree. It is a sociopath who blames his lack of morality on someone else.


But Eugene seemed like one who could not kill himself. He did not seem to be a strong-willed character, so, I felt it would be more like him to kill Stepanida.


Eugene is sexually obsessed with Stepanida and, yet, he cannot allow himself to carry on an affair with her, not only because of what it would do to Liza, but because as a landowner and man of high standing, he has to behave in a morally forthright manner. And he desperately wants to be a moral man, much like Tolstoy himself. It's this schism within himself that brings him to believe that Stepanida is a devil who has cast some spell on him. But when we look at how Tolstoy portrays Stepanida, she doesn't seem like a devil at all. She's just a free-spirited peasant girl who is willing to have sex with the landlord for money. I think Stepanida's family and friends even encourage her to do it.

It is interesting how Tolstoy portrays Liza in this story. She is extremely devoted to Eugene and also jealous, even before Eugene becomes obsessed with Stepanida.

"One thing that did not so much poison as threaten their happiness was her jealousy—a jealousy which she restrained and did not show, but which often made her suffer."

It's interesting that Tolstoy uses the same ending paragraph in both endings: "And, indeed, if Eugene was mentally ill, then all people are just as mentally ill, and most mentally ill are undoubtedly those who see signs of madness in others that they do not see in themselves."

There is one particularly memorable scene in this story when Eugene, as he goes on about the phosphates, sees Stepanida for the first time since his marriage.

Quote:
He was displeased that he had noticed her, and yet he could not tear his eyes from her body, swayed by the strong, agile gait of her bare feet, from her arms, her shoulders, the beautiful folds of her blouse, and the red skirt tucked up high over her white calves.


And then, a couple of paragraphs later.

Quote:
Liza, as always, met him with a beaming face. But that day she seemed to him especially pale, yellow, long, and weak.


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Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:30 pm
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Post Re: The Devil
Here's my alternative ending for anyone who cares to read it. I use Evgeny instead of Eugene because that's how it is in my translation. The asterisk is where I leave off from Tolstoy's text.

<<<begin here>>>

"Yes, two lives are possible for me; one is the life I began with Liza: service, farming, the child, people's respect. If it's that life, then there must be no Stepanida. She must be sent away, as I said, or destroyed, so that she's no more. And the other life is right here. To take her from her husband, give him money, forget the shame and disgrace, and live with her. But then there must be no Liza and Mimi (the child). No, why, the child's no hindrance, but there must be no Liza, she must go away. Let her find out, curse me, and go away.* Find out that that I'm a deceiver, a scoundrel.

No, that's too terrible. That can't be done. All I have worked for. Would I discard it for the sake of a peasant wench? A devil? For that's what she is, an outright devil. She's taken possession of me against my will. And I must be rid of her once and for all.

So this was the choice Evgeny made. And the next day he informed Liza that an urgent matter required him to be away on business. His resolve gave him a strength which he had not felt in a long time. There was a day when he would compelled others do his bidding for him. But this was a matter he must do for himself. He told his coachman to prepare for the trip and, meanwhile, called on Danila, his father's former huntsman. It was only fitting that the man who had fixed him with Stepinada should also help in her extrication. Evgeny found him at the watch-house and, here, went straight to the point.

"Danila, I must know something. This man, Sidor Pchelnikov. Where does he live? For I must go see him at once."

The steward was surprised but saw something in Evgeny's face that forestalled questions on the matter. Evgeny recalled his embarrassment years before when the matter was first taken up. Then, he needed the woman, or so he had thought, for his physical health and mental freedoms. For these same reasons he now needed to be rid of her.

Danila knew only the district in which Sidor resided but the man was well known in town. A few inquiries would lead Evgeny straight to him. And so it was late in the day, as the sun fell towards the horizon, and the bustle of town life remained in full swing, that Evgeny found himself entering a tavern on the west side. Inside he immediately recognized Sidor at a table with a few of his comrades. They were a boisterous bunch but at Evgeny's presence they fell silent.

"I must speak to you, Sidor Pchelnikov," Evgeny said. "Let us go outside for a moment. It will not take long." This last was directed at Sidor's comrades who had stiffened in response to Evgeny's direct manner.

Sidor hesitated. "What is so important? As you can see I'm about to have my tea."

His comrades laughed at this.

"It is an important matter, one worth your while."

Outside they walked down a side street and Evgeny spoke in a direct manner for there was no other way to discuss it.

"You know who I am?" Evgeny said. To which Sidor only nodded. "Well, I have come to make an offer, a business proposition."

This offer was similar to that which Evgeny had made to compel his brother to renounce his share of his inheritance. The amount was one fourth of that which he had paid to his brother. A thousand a year or lump sum of twenty thousand, for which Sidor would take his wife away and never come back.

Such an outlay of money would be a hardship. However Evgeny knew the estates would certainly fail if he could not break himself of the sorcerous bond which Stepinada held over him. And so he considered the money an investment or business expense.

“But that is the village where I was born,” Sidor said, agitated and much perplexed. “That is where my family lives.”

“Take your family with you or not,” Evgeny replied. “That is not my concern. My concern is only that Stepinada be taken from Semyonovskoe.

“But what has my wife done that is so vexing to you?"

"I think you know what she does. She is troublesome and a distraction for me and . . . to others. Besides, it is shameful for a man to neglect his wife so."

Sidor stopped and confronted Evgeny. "You come here to insult me? To question my honor?"

"I am here to save your honor, sir."

These words provoked Sidor a great deal. Evgeny hastily repeated his offer and with Sidor’s continued reluctance he then increased it by two hundred. This was not the usual way he conducted business and he was ashamed to show his hand so easily. The larger offer did a great deal to calm Sidor as he recognized the advantages such money could bring. And so a deal was struck.

Within the week, Sidor came and took Stepinada away as promised. Evgeny was confident that he would never lay eyes on the woman again. He felt free at last.

The money was an additional burden for the estates but the beet harvest was excellent that year with good prospects for years to come. In this regard Evgeny’s instincts proved to be correct. The farm prospered and the following year brought another unexpected joy when Liza became pregnant. The pregnancy was carried with few complications and by Holy Week of the following year a second child, a healthy girl, was born. Evgeny devoted all his efforts to his work and was happy.

But in farming as in other professions there are always lean years. There came a period of drought that would last some three years and, yet, it seemed to Evgeny in the midst of it that it might very well last forever. The estate fell into debt just when it seemed possible that it would some day be free and clear of it. At the same time orders for the factory were in decline and it had to be closed down for a period of several months. The estate still brought in good money but Evgeny still had to pay his brother and, now, Sidor in Koltovskoe. He thought of his papa's debt that had to be paid so many years after his death and feared that he would leave the same legacy to his own family.

One day he happened across a field, his mind troubled by recent difficulties, when he spotted a flash of red out in one of the fields. He was appalled to see a peasant girl, her kerchief moved by the wind in a manner which provoked him greatly. He dared not believe his eyes. Was it possible that Stepinada had come back? No! Impossible! After all, he was only a few weeks late with his payment.

Unable to help himself, he followed the girl into a copse and grabbed her by the arm. The girl became frightened and tried to run away. Evgeny saw with great relief that it was not Stepinada after all. He offered his apologies and explained that he had only mistaken her for someone else. She was a mere girl, slender and pretty. Seeing that Evgeny was sincere she was less afraid of him. And just before they parted the girl offered a weak smile which belied her youth and innocence. Evgeny felt something awaken deep inside of him which he took to be only a relief and gratitude that she was not who he initially feared her to be.

He later inquired of the girl and learned she was the eldest daughter of the Kasatsky family who had worked on the estates since the time of his grandfather. He chanced upon her once or twice, passing this way or that. And one day he realized he was taking roundabout ways in order to come upon her in the fields, or on the path near the woods where they had first met. He fancied that she well understood how he enjoyed seeing her. Before long he began thinking of her shamefully. It was happening again! And he realized then that the devil had not gone to Koltovskoe after all. All along it had resided in Evgeny’s own breast.

In the months that followed Evgeny began to drink heavily and neglect the estates as well. The locals said it was the mounting debt that turned him to drink and to dark thoughts. One day he attacked a peasant girl for no reason at all but at least he was stopped in time otherwise he would have killed her. It was deemed a crime and he was sent to prison for one month. Upon his release he was ordered to spend an additional month in a monastery where it was hoped he would regain his lost faculties.

In his absence Varvara Alexeevna returned to live on the estate. She claimed that she had always predicted Evgeny's mental illness. It was clear when he argued. But Liza and Marya Pavlovna could never understand it, and all the same did not believe what the doctors said. They simply could not accept it because they knew he was far more sound-minded than hundreds of people they knew.



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Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:38 pm
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Post Re: The Devil
reader2121 wrote:
I choose: Gogol's "The Nose."

Here is the text:

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Nose_(Gogol/Field)

I haven't read this yet, but I know it's a classic of Russian Literature.

Shall we begin this Monday?


Thanks for selecting this. I'll try to read it over the weekend.


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Thu Oct 14, 2010 10:23 pm
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Post Re: The Devil
reader2121 wrote:
lindad_amato wrote:
Suzanne,
I agree. It is a sociopath who blames his lack of morality on someone else.


But Eugene seemed like one who could not kill himself. He did not seem to be a strong-willed character, so, I felt it would be more like him to kill Stepanida.



Suicide is the ultimate self-serving act. An individual who commits suicide gives no consideration to those in his life who will suffer the loss. In this case the child, wife,mother, mother-in-law, uncle and those who count on him for a living.
Tolstoy, according to his biographical information, was obviously suffering from the knowledge that he was a weak person, who knew that he (in the guise of Eugene) had done wrong. However, to blame it on Stepanida (or any other person) is a completely self-serving act unworthy of any compassion from the reader. Either ending makes the story a tragedy because the protagonist doesn't come to grips with his failures and learn from them.



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Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:35 am
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Post Re: The Devil
Geo,
I liked your ending. At least you showed him recognizing the error of his ways even if he still couldn't cope with that knowledge.



Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:37 am
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Post Re: The Devil
reader2121 wrote:
I choose: Gogol's "The Nose."


Sounds good to me. Thanks reader.

A new thread for, "The Nose" has been created in the short story forum. All posts on this story can be made there.



Tue Oct 19, 2010 12:23 pm
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