He alone knew that with the consciousness of the injustices done him, with his wife's incessant nagging, and with the debts he had contracted by living beyond his means, his position was far from normal." (Tolstoy, Chapter III). Not everyone thinks Ivan Ilyich's salary is meager, and he chooses to live beyond his means, thus although he is ordinary, his world is not absent of examples of how it is possible to live differently. Likewise, the married lovers of "The Lady with the Dog" could theoretically leave their spouses, although divorce is difficult in 19th century Russia. What impedes them seems to be the fact that openly leaving their spouses and children will make them societal pariahs, and result in a loss of financial and social status. At the end of the tale, their resolve to begin their life anew rings hollow, and they may very well remain willing to tolerate personal unhappiness and marriages that are a lie for the sake of maintaining a comfortable existence, as they have for some time. "And it seemed as though in a little while the solution would be found, and then a new and splendid life would begin; and it was clear to both of them that they had still a long, long road before them, and that the most complicated and difficult part of it was only just beginning" (Chekov, "The Lady with the Dog"). There is also the nagging suspicion in the reader's mind that, perhaps if their love was not forbidden it would not feel like 'true' love after all. Gurov only falls in love with Anna from a distance, after he leaves Yalta. During their first meeting he is rather contemptuous of her, and Anna is very young and inexperienced.
Although she lives in a society with limited opportunities for women, there still can be no denying the fact that Hedda Gabler...
She is incapable of conceiving of an existence where her worth is not tied to the worth and intelligence of the man she is associated with, whether that be her father or her husband. Although this is partially Hedda's upbringing, her decision to manipulate others and her unquestioned endorsement of societal dictates does not entirely absolve her of all personal responsibility, even in the eyes of the contemporary reader, especially as she tells the despairing Lovborg when she gives him a pistol: "Take it...use it now," when she knows he is at his weakest. Despite her apparent strength of character, she is weak enough to place a high value on how her house is arranged, to the point that she treats her husband's relatives cruelly for minor slights.
These characters are thus all subject to social shaping, but none of them are innocent. All place a high value on bourgeois morals and trappings of status. While their creators do not entirely condemn these characters, they do not condone their behavior. All characters show some free will in their actions, to the extent to which they allow their love of creature comforts or fear of what people will 'say' to prevent them doing from what they morally know is right.
Chekhov, Anton. "The Lady with the Dog." Online Literature E-text. [23 Jul 2007]
Ibsen, Henrik. "Hedda Gabler." Project Gutenberg E-text. [23 Jul 2007]
Tolstoy, Leo. "The Death of Ivan Ilyich." Classical Library E-text. http://www.classicallibrary.org/tolstoy/ivan
Western Sexual Mores and Fundamental Beliefs about Romantic Love: Beyond the unfair effect of gender-based differential sexual socialization on sexually liberated women in dating relationships, another component of American social psychology often undermines romantic happiness. Specifically, the many messages about romance and marriage that help shape the American view of love suggest that: (1) sexual desire between couples who love each other is exclusive; (2) sexual desire for others indicates a
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