The title of Tolstoy’s novella is a clever joke, as it contains the story of a couple’s
descent into unhappiness. The 17-year-old Mashechka falls in love with Sergey
Mikhaylych, a man more than twice her age. After an awkward courtship, the two marry.
As Mashechka matures, however, she begins to understand more of love’s complexities;
she realizes that her love for Sergey was a mere child’s infatuation. Disillusioned,
Mashechka grows to loathe both herself and married life. Tolstoy’s tale exhibits the vivid
narration and perceptive observations of human existence that characterize all of the
author’s works. Written before his conversion, Family Happiness provides an interesting
contrast to Tolstoy’s later religious short stories and novels.