Sonya Tolstoy’s Contribution

Feminism sprang up as a social movement a few decades after Leo Tolstoy published his two great novels. Predating feminism, both War and Peace and Anna Karenina feature female characters whose lifelike portrayal equals and often exceeds that of the male protagonists.

In War and Peace, Natasha Rostov provides the developing character around whom the male figures come and go. In addition we meet Anna Pavlovna Scherer, who commands the true center of Petersburg society, orphan Sonya, the Rostovs’ niece, whose fate past childhood hangs in the balance, and Maria Bolkonsky, whose moral elevation redeems those around her. Anna Karenina has 4 major characters paired as Anna and Vronsky, Kitty and Levin, as well as a touching portrait of Varenka, a common girl raised and educated by an heiress.

Tolstoy leads his female and male readers alike not only to appreciate the women in his novels, but to identify with them, to feel their pain and their victories. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment, and one wonders how these fictional women became so true to life. Continue reading “Sonya Tolstoy’s Contribution”

The Most Beautiful Word in Any Language

The search for GSOT is in many ways a search for beauty. What does this mean?

Beauty moves human choosing in several ways. Beauty dwells in the object of attention and simultaneously in the experience of attending. We pause and linger to enjoy beauty. In its presence attention finds rest and delight. When it departs, we try to recall how or where it might be found. When beauty peeks at us, we turn toward it, hoping to rest in its embrace again. Beauty is more, but it has at least this essential character, that it calls a person to attend, to dismiss other cares, and to appreciate.

Among all the experiences of life, what are those that may be called most beautiful? If the class of most beautiful experiences could be named, what would the name be? That name, I warrant, would deserve to be called the most beautiful word one could speak or write. Continue reading “The Most Beautiful Word in Any Language”