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The Devil, By Leo Tolstoy: Feminist Critical Theory Essay

2039 words - 8 pages

The battle between what is right and wrong is a classic struggle that has existed from the beginning of time. The most honorable people face the crossroad of choosing either the angel’s path or the devil’s; one path leads to an honest yet difficult life while the other is an easy and selfish one. Throughout history, women have been portrayed as the reason of Man’s downfall. The male dominated world has created stereotypes to blame females for their defeats due to ignorance. Leo Tolstoy’s “The Devil” explores the dichotomy of the objectification of women as the angel and the devil.
Stereotypes are assumptions that are made about an entire group of people based on observations of a few; they act as scapegoats for prejudice behaviour and ideologies. Stereotypes enable people to infer characteristics and abilities of someone based on previous experiences. The issue of stereotypes is clearly presented in “The Devil” through the main females, Liza and Stepanida. These two women are fulfilling two drastically different stereotypes throughout the story, where Liza is the ideal woman and Stepanida is the temptress. Liza is portrayed as the ideal woman as she is shown to be as an angel compared to Stepanida’s devilish ways. Liza is a “tall, slender…and she [has] beautiful, clear, trusting eyes,” (Tolstoy 175). She is shown to be full of love, trust and empathy towards her husband and all general members of society. This love Liza possesses is what Evgeny, the main character, finds most attractive about her. She is a helpless romantic and she has fallen in and out of love with many men before but when she meets Evgeny she surrenders herself to him freely.
And then when he proposed and they were given the parental blessing, when they kissed and became engaged, then she had no other thoughts than him, no other desires than to be with him, to love him and be loved by him. She was proud of him, she was moved by him and by herself and their love, she swooned and melted all for love of him.” (Tolstoy 176)
After marriage, Liza is the ideal wife. She is able to give Evgeny a daughter, Mimi, and is successful in keeping Evgeny happy in their relationship. She provides him with affection as well as a good reputation since she is a well-respected woman in their society. Evgeny realizes that Liza is the perfect woman and that is why he is disgusted in himself when he is tempted by Stepanida. To Evgeny, Liza is an angel that is able to provide him with everything he has ever wanted in a marriage due to her innocence, purity and devotion. “Liza understood at once what her husband’s ideal of life was and tried to achieve and succeeded in achieving in the arrangements and order of their house the very things he wished,” (Tolstoy 180). When Evgeny’s successful marriage is tested by Stepanida’s trap he is sickened with himself because he is not able to control his yearning for another woman when he already has the perfect one. “‘How can I not be a scoundrel, when I, Liza’s...

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