The great Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, creator of “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina”, wrote a variety of short stories, too. One of his most imaginative tales began as a light hearted and psychological revealer that reflected one man’s view of possibly one woman. This was the story entitled “The Porcelain Doll.”
It has been said that the story was a kind of prank Tolstoy and his wife played on her sister while expecting their first child. It was written as personal letters, the first one written in his wife hand to her sister and the next written by Tolstoy, himself.
The wife, by some unknown process becomes a porcelain doll as she retires to bed for the night and returned to normal on the onset of the next day. This becomes a more permanent condition in a few days to the point that shrinks the woman into a mantle topped figurine size.
Most critics agree that it was a representation of Tolstoy’s unsatisfactory marriage to Sophia Tolstaya. The tensions in their earliest years were no doubt due to the life of promiscuity Tolstoy engaged in and the high expectations of a new wife.
There was a voice of satire drifting through the story. Men want a mindless object to move at will under the cover or protection of an intimate night. Women want to be that same mindless object as long as it was wrapped in beauty and delicacy. It seemed to work out for the best for both of them.
Tolstoy was no stranger to candid opinions. He spoke compassionately of the Russian peasant and supported pacifistic anarchist views. He saw the transgressions of government and the sins of the church.
It seems he recognized the flaws in marriage and relationship too as his lampoon unfolded in “The Porcelain Doll.” He gives an excellent glimpse of what life would entail if men received their granted wish. The doll would be too delicate to handle. That would become more worrisome for him in less time than he would expect.
Women would learn also that extreme delicacy in the hands of a common man can result in breakage that was beyond repair because men and their hands have limitations.
“The Porcelain Doll” is not an easy story to find. As previously mentioned, it was not regarded as a story but more of a practical joke. I thought it was quite witty with a shadow of honesty. I’d like to believe his sister-in-law was amused, as well.