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Family Happiness

文章日期:2011年5月6日

Ask a young couple what constitutes happiness at home, and the likely answer is love. Ask an older, more mature man or woman the same question, and chances are you’d hear a different suggestion:compromise.

Is there any conflict between love and compromise? Do they contradict? Leo Tolstoy does not make any apparent attempt to explain. In this novel, however, he goes to great lengths to provide a meticulous articulation of how romance blossoms, perhaps at times wildly; then subsides subtly to simmering love that does not boil over; gradually transforms into mutual accommodation and dependence; and eventually glides gently into a compromise that is too tired of argument. This may not be marital bliss, but is by all accounts family happiness.

Set in 19th century Russia, the story begins with a young girl who, after her parents’deaths, spends the winter in the country with her governess, in rural simplicity and seclusion that she often finds grotesquely lonesome. She soon falls for and marries an older man whom she admires and adores. The couple moves to the city, where the wife is blinded by the temptations and glamor there. Personality differences ensue, but husband and wife put up with each other at all costs, by choice or otherwise, to hold the family together. The plot conjure up my favorite a quote of Leo Tolstoy: The means to gain happiness is to throw out from oneself like a spider in all directions an adhesive web of love, and to catch in it all that comes. After all, it is love that is the source of family happiness.

The story is told from the heroine’s point of view. The expression of her inner feelings is never explosive, but ever so serene. The depiction is often poetry-like. The author could have been handling a very heavy duty issue that deals with marriage and family, but I feel no pressure at all taking in the ideas, only enormous pleasure reading the beautiful prose.

Reviewed by Ms. Brenda Mau, Principal of St. Mark's School

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