Blog 8, Week 10

What can you find out about Tolstoy’s belief in the value of the working class?


Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy’s belief of the working class is that they have more of a realistic and wholesome life when compared to the upper class. In his short story Master and Man, he delves into the psychology of both the upper class and the working lower class. Similar to Charles Dicken’s novel Hard Times, where it is portrayed that Sissy has something over the Gradgrind family as she does not act for the benefit of herself but for others. Showing that Sissy is the living example of the essence of human nature, this is comparable to Tolstoy’s Master and Man as Nikita is portrayed in a similar way that he can live his life to the fullest, unlike Vasili until the end of the story. As Vasili can understand the purpose of human existence is to act and aid others unlike acting for one’s own desires and wishes. This meaning that Tolstoy uses the idea and imagery of the working class to express that acting for the integrity of others is fundamental to the human essence rather than acting and benefiting one’s self.

One theme that was also portrayed in Tolstoy short story, the death of Ivan Ilyich, explores the materialism and self-centeredness of the upper class. Through the juxtaposition between Praskovya being portrayed as self-absorbed and high demanding while Ivan is portrayed as a mundane person but being decent. This again is similar to Dickens’ Hard Times as Mrs Gradgrind is presented as a high demanding individual that acts purely for her own needs and wants, unlike Sissy who attempts to aid Mrs Gradgrind and Louisa.

Both Tolstoy and Dickens write about the working class having a type of virtue that the upper class is unable to require. With this, both authors write from different contexts and issues that were happening during the 19th century but write about the importance of the human essence and how society has become greedy and materialistic.


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