Originally Posted by caleb72
Immediately upon finishing this book I wasn't quite sure what I thought about The Eternal Husband. However, I've had a couple of days to contemplate and I think I've got a better grasp on how I feel towards it.
I read an article somewhere that called this story a psychological duel. Although that is, I guess, what was eventuating on the surface, I think I prefer thinking of this story as a study of the male psyche - or at least of a couple of specific types of male psyche.
Velchaninoff is a representation of the alpha male. Although he is, at the time of this story, somewhat down on his luck, he has enjoyed a privileged position amongst other men (and women) in that he was very handsome, well-off and completely charming. What's more - he had the attitude of the alpha male: domination is a natural state and he seldom feels true guilt in that domination.
At the commencement of the story, Velchaninoff is probably at his lowest ebb. His looks have faded with age somewhat and a shift in financial position has left him poorly although not destitute. I propose that despite this, Velchaninoff is still very much an alpha male from the inside out and that this is made evident as the story progresses.
When Velchaninoff first runs into Trusotsky he doesn't recognise him. Given that he had spent a year in an adulterous relationship with Trusotsky's wife in Trusotsky's home, I think this says alot about Velchaninoff's attitude as an alpha male.
Trusotsky is a classic submissive male. He will not only be dominated by an alpha male, I believe he longs to be dominated this way. However when we are introduced to him in this book, there are a few question marks. His visit to St Petersberg seems to be one of revenge. We see an interplay between the two characters much like a game of cat and mouse and it seems like Velchaninoff is the hunted and Trusotsky is the hunter. But neither character is in his true position in the relationship and the roles are played very uncomfortably by both parties.
The fact is that Trusotsky adores Velchaninoff much like a submissive would adore the dominant alpha male. He is completely uncomfortable being the aggressor and there are signs that he wants to resume his classic submissive role.
Just some observations about Trusotsky. He married an attractive woman using his status as the attractor. His wife used him for position in society but sought out dominant males for the purpose of conducting a sexual relationship. It's uncertain whether Trusotsky enjoyed any type of sexual relationship with his wife, but their inability to conceive could either point to a sexual disfunction in Trusotsky or is an indicator that the relationship itself had no sexual basis.
When Trusotsky chose to marry again, it was to a beautiful young girl who very obviously spurned his attentions. Given that there were many girls in this family including a mild and more submissive option in Katia, this tells me that Trusotsky yearns to resume his role as a cuckold. The marriage itself is important to him, but not the relationship and I believe this is because of his own feelings of inadequacy. The fact that he introduces Velchaninoff to see how she behaves in the society of men, tells me that he's making sure he's picking the correct woman to resume his place as the eternal husband (or cuckold), a position that he has a deep-seated desire to resume. I believe the only reason this marriage did not eventuate was due to the insistence of another future alpha male who succeeded in dominating Trusotsky sufficiently to warn him off.
His final choice of a wife was the same as all other choices, with the wife immediately attempting to secure Velchaninoff's attentions. So he had indeed picked well.
That's enough for this post. I may continue with further observations I made throughout the book. Anyone have any comments on this view?
Yes, nice analysis. If the alpha male terminology had been current in Dostoevsky's time he might have even applied that terminology to Velchaninov and Trusotsky. Trusotsky seemed to alternate between sycophantic desire to win Velchaninov's respect and approval and murderous rage against Velchaninov for his natural superiority.
I am not sure about your speculation about Trusotsky having not sexual relationship with his first wife. It is not until Trusotsky reads his wife's collection of letters that he realizes that she has cheated on him with Velchaninov and Bagautov. So unless Trusotsky was totally misinformed about the birds & bees . . .
Something that your analysis made me think of is this. When the novel begins Velchaninov is a hypochondriac who seems to have lost any direction in life. Does his encounter with Trusotsky remind him of his superiority and give him the push he needs to resume life?