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Oblonsky occupied the honorable and lucrative position of president of one of the government boards at Moscow. This post he had received through his sister Anna’s husband, who held one of the most important positions in the ministry to whose department the Moscow office belonged. But if Karenin had not got his brother-in-law this berth, then through a hundred other personages—brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, and aunts—Stiva Oblonsky would have received this post, or some other similar one, together with the salary of six thousand absolutely needful for him, as his affairs, in spite of his wife’s considerable property, were in an embarrassed condition. Half Moscow and Petersburg were friends and relations of Stepan Arkadyevitch [Oblonsky]. He was born in the midst of those who had been and are the powerful ones of this world. One-third of the men in the government, the older men, had been friends of his father’s, and had known him in petticoats; another third were his intimate chums, and the remainder were friendly acquaintances. Consequently the distributors of earthly blessings in the shape of places, rents, shares, and such, were all his friends, and could not overlook one of their own set; and Oblonsky had no need to make any special exertion to get a lucrative post. He had only not to refuse things, not to show jealousy, not to be quarrelsome or take offense, all of which from his characteristic good nature he never did. It would have struck him as absurd if he had been told that he would not get a position with the salary he required, especially as he expected nothing out of the way; he only wanted what the men of his own age and standing did get, and he was no worse qualified for performing duties of the kind than any other man.
Kuprin in “The Outrage” asks us to look at society from a radically different perspective, by viewing thieves as acting ethically, in response to social injustice.
Kuprin quotes Proudhon: La propriete c’est le vol (Property is Theft), and says this has “never yet been refuted by the sermons of cowardly bourgeois or fat priests.” He uses as examples the origins of wealth and the effects of inheritance. Chekhov, in “A Woman’s Kingdom,” also explores these two issues.
In roughly 750 words (stapled or paper-clipped) address the following:
Explain how, taken together, these two stories allow us to see differently the justifications for the distribution of wealth in the United States. In what sense do they form a criticism of the idea that the wealthy deserve their wealth, and the poor their poverty?
Due Weds. Feb. 8th in class.