‘Yes, you call it love but I call it torture,’ I said. ‘Why did you let me go into society if you thought it so evil that you ceased to love me because of it?’
‘It was not society, my dear,’ he said.
‘Why did you not use your authority?’ I went on. ‘Why didn’t you lock me up or kill me? I would be better off than I am now, deprived of all that made up my happiness. I should have been very happy, instead of being ashamed.’
I began to sob again and hid my face.
‘Yes,’ he began, as though continuing his thoughts aloud, ‘all of us, and especially you women, must discover for ourselves all the futilities of life in order to come back to life itself: the experience of other people is no good. At that time you were far from having got to the end of that sweet and charming nonsense that I used to enjoy in you, and I left you to have your fill of it, feeling that I had no right to stand in your way, although for me the time for that sort of thing was long past.’
‘If you loved me ,’ I said, ‘why did you stand by and allow me to go through with it?’
‘Because even if you had wanted to accept my experience you would not have been able to: you had to find out for yourself — and you did.’
‘You thought it all out – thought it all out very carefully,’ I said. ‘You did not love very much.’
We lapsed into silence again.
‘That was harsh, what you said just now, but it is the truth,’ he exclaimed, suddenly rising to his feet and beginning to walk about the veranda. ‘Yes, it’s the truth. I was to blame,’ he added, stopping opposite me. ‘Either I ought not to have allowed myself to love you at all, or I ought to have loved you in a simpler way.’
Happily Ever After
Leo Tolstoy 1859
Cribb Comment: I believe this passage exquisitely portrays a dynamic all too common in any relationship involving one member who is maturely and aptly at peace with themselves and their existence versus another member who is immaturely floundering about in nervous energy anxiety (etc.) and the narcissism of satiating themselves in societal delusion and distraction. The passage is even more profound and relevant for this dynamic when a significant age disparity exists between these two entities. The man of this passage (the more mature entity in this case) profoundly loves this woman and he almost refused to marry her earlier in the book because of his prophetic knowledge of how things were likely to play out. The last sentence in the quote refers to this. His other counter to this tragedy, in this very same sentence, is to say “or I ought to have loved you in a simpler way.” My interpretation is to assume that this simpler way means without such passion or remaining further removed, but it is feasible that he is simply referring to enacting greater patience and personal acceptance of the “cost” involved in remaining unselfish and supremely stable in such a relationship. Any of these behaviors by the man would have required enormous self sacrifice and essentially equate to him moving into a long term yielding (negative) transcendence state (instead of a horizontal or upperward transcendence state) with someone he dearly loved.
At the time of this passage in the book, the female character has already bucked a simple, intimate, and quieter life with her husband, opting instead for the chaotic excitement and thrill which dwells most manicaly in the nervous energy of the fickle societal herd. She has run that course out of her own choice with some component of said choice being related to her utter defiance of her husbands stable posture and contentment which she cannot help but perceive primarily as authoritarian in nature. After profoundly discovering through her own experience and suffering that the societal bosom is never more than a “futility of life,” our female character must look to blame another for the consequences of her own unrelenting egocentric perspective. She must blame him, damn him for being too authoritarian or for not being authoritarian enough, to justify the suffering and consequence that she so proudly chose to march into with such gleeful determination. Our female character now sees all of the wasted and nonrecoverable time that she threw away in the suffering and consequence of her independent choices.