Tolstoy, Leo, trans. Louise Maud

Dover, 2004

pp. 55 - 56

Prince Dimitri Nekhlyudov (neck-lee-YOO-dov) seduces a beautiful housemaid, Katerína Máslova, impregnates her by the seduction, and spoils her life. On the day after the fateful seduction, Nekhlyudov makes a terrible decision: he ought to give Máslova some money “because it was the thing to do and he would be considered dishonorable if he did not pay her after having made use of it. Predictably, Máslova resents being treated as a prostitute. Nekhlyudov starts to understand how he has now dishonored her twice. “for a long time he strode up and down writhing as if in pain, and even stamping and groaning aloud” as he thought of so disgracing innocent Máslova. He tries in vain to comfort himself with variants of “Everybody does it; it can’t be helped.” But it doesn’t work very well. “In his soul–in the very depths of his soul—he knew that he had acted in a base, cruel, and cowardly manner, and that the knowledge of this act of his must prevent him, not only from finding fault with anyone else, but even from looking straight into other people’s eyes, not to mention the impossibility of considering himself a splendid, noble, high-minded fellow, as he did and had to do to go on living his life boldly and merrily. There was only one solution of the problem—not to think about it. He succeeded in doing so. The life he was now entering upon, the new surroundings, new friends, the war, all helped him to forget. And the longer he lived the less he thought about it, until, at last, he forgot about it completely.” He had wrestled with his conscience and he had won. [On not “looking straight into other people’s eyes,” cf. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics (Macmillan, 1965), p. 20: After the fall, Adam and Eve couldn’t look at each other anymore. They especially had trouble looking into each other’s eyes for fear of what they might find there.]