Before I write about Tolstoy’s Resurrection and prostitutes in Literature, here are some NOTES ON THE OLYMPICS. Yes, I’m goofing around in front of the TV tonight. Loved the snowboarding, loved the Alpine skiing, adored the ice dancing. I took a night off from the Olympics last night, and now I’m ba-a-a-a-a-ck!
Skip ahead if you don’t like the Olympics.
Women’s Bobsled: We’re interested because of Lolo Jones, the track star/bobsled brakeman from Des Moines (Dead Moines, as it’s called in Iowa). Yes, we’re Midwesterners. USA Teams 1 and 2 (not Lolo’s sled 3) won silver and bronze. Canada won gold, and I was impressed by their clean, perfect runs, but aren’t American silver and bronze as good? USA, USA…
Alpine Skiing: I muted it so I can blog. Is Ted Ligety in medal position? Yes! He’s in first place. WHOOOOOO! Ted just won the Gold Medal in the slalom. The first U.S. Alpine skier to win two gold medals (or something something something). Feel like a drink?
Figure skating: Yuna Kim, the defending gold medalist from South Korea, is more elegant and limber than anyone in her field . She has speed and flow, and, as one narrator said, “She may be the greatest competitor I’ve ever witnessed.” Another said, “She totally owns the audience and that performance.” American Gracie Gold had one wobble, the little Russian fell down, and the beautiful Italian is my favorite but still perhaps not as good as Kim. More on this tomorrow.
On to Tolstoy:
If you’ve read this blog, you’ll know that Tolstoy is one of my favorite writers. Last year I reread War and Peace and Anna Karenina, and then immediately started rereading W&P again.
And now I’m returning to Tolstoy’s other work. Rereading Tolstoy is like reliving your life.
In his beautifully-written novel, Resurrection, a prostitute, Katyusha Maslova, is accused, along with another woman and man, of theft and poisoning one of her clients. She is innocent, having been told that the drink would make him sleep.
Then, unexpectedly, Prince Dmitri Ivanovich Nekhlyudov, a man in his prime who seduced Katyusha years ago at his aunts’ house, recognizes her. He is on the jury. His life is in control, he might marry a rich woman (though he doesn’t like her much), and what if anyone finds out he was connected to the accused? But when a mistake on the jury condemns her to hard labor, he is conscience-stricken. He does everything he can to help her and other prisoners, many of whom have been unjustly locked up. He decides he will give up his estate, marry Katyusha, and follow her to Siberia.
But what if the woman doesn’t feel like marrying the landowner? Katyusha decidedly does not. She is angry about what happened long ago. She lost her position with his aunts (they had brought her up almost as a niece and even educated her) because of pregnancy. One night, in the early stages of her pregnancy, she walked through a rainstorm to see him at the train station–he had telegraphed his aunts that he would pass through but not have time to stop. Arriving a little late, she tried in vain to get his attention, running along beside the train.
He didn’t see her. She is desperate, furious, and pregnant.
And then she is like Anna Karenina. The scene boldly refers to Anna’s suicide..
He’s there in that carriage with the bright lights, sitting on his velvet chair, joking and drinking, and I’m down here in the dirt and the darkness, in the rain and the wind, standing here weeping,” she thought ,as she came to a stop, threw back her head, held it with both hands and howled….
“The next train–under the wheels–and it’s all over,” thought Katushya…
She does not commit suicide, and in fact Nekhlyudov does renew her life by making sure she is put with the political prisoners instead of the criminals. She gets a sort of education from these radicals.
And for Nekhlyudov? Does he find resurrection?
It’s a complicated novel about prison reform, Christianity, and judgment.
Nekhlyudov asks himself, What right does a Christian have to judge the poor and the ignorant?
And on the final page:
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all the rest will be added on to you.”
1. Tolstoy’s Resurrection
2. Zola’s Nana
3. Trollope’s The Vicar of Bullhampton
4. Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
5. Balzac’s A Harlot High and Low
6. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind
7. Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders
8. Dickens’ Oliver Twist
9. Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment
10. Louisa May Alcott’s Work
Any more prostitutes in literature? Let me know!