One of my most favorite short stories that I consider the deepest of them all is After The Dance, by Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy is a famous Russian author who influenced the writings of many later Russian authors, including Boris Pasternak, who won the Nobel Literature Prize. Leo grew up wealthy and rich, but ended up living poor, not because he had to, but because he chose to.
In this short story, in order for one to be able to get the author’s message, one must analyze in the context of the author’s life and in the context of the Russian history at the story’s time. So just keep that in mind. Here is the story (click link): After The Dance.
After reading it, here are some questions to get you thinking:
1) In the beginning, Ivan sets out to prove that it is all by chance. Yet in the end, he seems to prove that it is by environment. What do you think the author is trying to say?
2) In the beginning Ivan loved Varinka. Later, he dislikes it. What does this symbolize? And why not mention her surname?
3) Who do the engineer and the blacksmith symbolize?
4) In one part of the story, Ivan describes that the more he is in love, the less corporeal Varinka was. Someone objects to Ivan that he should have felt Varinka since he was dancing with her, but Ivan responds: “Nowadays… you undress the women you are in love with… we never thought of doing so; we tried to veil her nakedness.” What is important about this?
5) Read the descriptions of Varinka, her father, and the hostess. What do these tell you?
6) One memory that was stuck in Ivan’s mind was the seemingly harmonious relationship between Varinka and her father, when they danced. Any symbolism?
7) Near the story’s end, Ivan tries to convince himself that there must have been a reason for the beating. Why does Ivan do this?
8) What scene is alluded when the beating of the deserter is described?
9) What do the gifts of the feather and glove symbolize?
10) Ivan admires the father’s boots because he thinks the father sacrifices it so Varinka could dress pretty. What does this represent in the historical context?
11) If Ivan had attended the dance after seeing the beating, how would he view Varinka and everything about her?
12) What is the overarching theme?