Without meaning to generalize, I have had more than a few moments of mistaking this month's reading project for an "Art of Misogyny" themed exercise. There are reasons. We all know them. But still.
Today's excursion into heinous womanhood portrays a lusty and attractive peasant woman as the devil. Because the aristocratic narrator/Tolstoy has an obsessive sexual attraction for her. And his inability to control his own desires would naturally indicate that some evil and supernatural force (aka slutty field worker) is at play. His own desires are only natural, indulged "merely for health's sake," as men are not intended to live in a state of "compulsory self-restraint." What he seems to find unnatural is a connection to his own desires that defies his own and society's compartmentalized views of womanhood - the angel/devil and lady/whore dichotomies.
Nicole pulled some great quotes from this one that contrast the wife and the woman/service provider. The wife as institution, "angel in the house" and business arrangement and the peasant as carefree and dismissive of the consequences of a relationship with the narrator. The peasant woman actually recognizes and accepts the narrator's true desires whereas his wife remains forever in the dark about what troubles her husband just as Mrs. Tolstoy must have been sheltered from the truth by such actions as the author hiding this manucript in the upholstery of his arm chair so that she might not find it.
Two separate endings here both highlight that there can be no class conflation. Either aristocrat or peasant must go. Despite the snark here, I did enjoy reading this. There is a nervous energy, that obsessiveness and the effort required to hide what is perceived as shameful, that drives this narrative forward in a more graceful way than I thought possible.