The crisis of the Russian family in the works of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis examines the crisis of the Russian family through the eyes of the key Russian writers of the second half of the 19th century: Tolstoy (1828-1910), Dostoevsky (1821-1881), and Chekhov (1860-1904).
The purpose of this thesis is to demonstrate that the works of these authors are not just novels or short stories about the crisis of the family, but representative of the societal situation in Russia at the time. The aim of this study is also to show the continuity in ideas between these authors in the context of family life and marriage and to explore what kind of solutions they envisioned for the future of the Russian family.
Although there has been extensive research on the family in the works of these great classics of 19th century Russian literature, there has been less analysis of the crisis of the Russian family and the solutions they offered as a way out of the crisis. Hence the aim of this research is to fill this critical gap.
The first chapter focuses on the representation of family life in Dostoevsky’s latest works The Brothers Karamazov (1881), “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man” (1877), and The Diary of a Writer (1876-7). The second chapter examines Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata (1889) and The Power of Darkness (1886). Tolstoy focuses his attention on both upper classes and the peasant family. Chapter three analyses the crisis of the family in some of Chekhov’s short stories and novellas that are particularly concerned with extra marital relations and marriages gone badly; they also address mistreatment of children.
This thesis argues that, on the one hand, these authors depict different types of marriages and family relations, and, on the other hand, their works reflect the changing realities and attitudes regarding love and sexuality of their time. It also argues that, through their fiction and sometimes in a subversive way, these authors influenced the readers’ mentality and came up with new radical ideas about the future of the Russian family.
Finally, this thesis aims to bring more academic interest to an overlooked research area, to explore how family values change through the eyes of these authors, and to contribute to a broader understanding of the crisis and the future of the Russian family through the lenses of the key Russian writers of 19th century Russia.