The sober nest

The personal image of the instincts’ scuffle

Aleksandra Toman

Wydział Nauk Społecznych, Instytut Historii UO


In my essay The sober nest i wrote about families from XIXth century and twenty years before the second world war. i noticed that in the second half of XIXth century the culture stopped idealizing a family and presented it as the ambivalent background. But there was conservative structure, too – duties were found more important than emotions. Families were regarded rather as economical entities: the Mincel in The doll by Bolesław Prus or the Boryna in The peasants by Władysław Reymont are examples. i  recalled Anna Karenina by Lew Tołstoj with the motto: ’Merry families are all similar; every unhappy family is unhappy in their own way’. This novel describes conservative families as patriotic, useful, but oppressive. In The magic hill Tomasz Mann characterizes the sober family as a bit milder. Michał Szołochow in his novel The silent Don accents paternalism in the Melechow family – parents don’t take care of Grzegorz’s needs. The heroes of the novel La regenta by Leopold Alas are similar: too conservative family thinks they know what is good for the protagonist who feels like an object. Ulloa manor by Emilia Bazan demitologises the family institution who makes Julian become a priest and orders Marcelina to marry a man she finds dishonest. The Portuguese writer Eco Queiros presents a bourgeoise family objectively and ironically. The novel The old people and the ephemeral things by Louis Couperus is similar. The Forsyte saga by John Galsworthy describes the ‘heroic’ aspect of the family institution and Arsieniew’s life by Iwan Bunin seems to glorify old-fashioned, Russian gentry families.


family, usefulness, duty, conservatism, paternalism, economical entity, tradition


Cited by

Toman, A. (2022). The sober nest: The personal image of the instincts’ scuffle. Family Forum, 11, 287–311.


Aleksandra Toman



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