Friday, October 18, 2013

Anna & Me: Part Four

As I mentioned here, I'll be reading Leo Tolstoy's novel, Anna Karenina, and blogging about my journey through one of the great classics. The novel is broken in to eight parts, so I'll post after finishing each one. To read parts one, two, and three of my journey with Anna, click here , here, and here.

"The inequality in marriage, in his opinion, lay in the fact that the infidelity of the wife and the infidelity of the husband are punished unequally, by the law and by public opinion." This line, though not spoken by a character, is really the crux of Anna Karenina. There is no other sentence (so far) that more apptly and concisely describes the novel. 

Part four picks up following Anna's conversation with Alexey during which he proposes continuing their marriage as is, with the caveat in place that she stop seeing Vronsky in public. They live peacefully like this for some time, but when Alexey catches Vronsky entering his home (while Anna believed Alexey was out for the evening) he takes Anna's letters to Vronsky and begins seeking a divorce. 

As the opening quote suggests, women and men were held to different expectations socially. While this double standard is certainly sexist and archaic to our modern minds, remember that Anna is ridiculous. Her selfish behavior appalls me. I just can't sympathize with her "plight." She seems (at first) unwilling to get a divorce but simultaneously unwilling to leave her affair alone and move forward with her husband. Though Anna is defiant and  proud, when it comes to discussing her infidelity with Alexey and facing her actions she clams up and appears crazed and unbalanced (foreshadowing?). Now, there is certainly an argument to be made that if it were not for women like Anna women would not be where they are today, but for the re-cap purposes of this post that argument will remain unaddressed.  

Anna's behavior is borderline ridiculous. Perhaps it's my idealism or my modern perception of divorce, but her inability to control herself and perpetual shirking of blame is irritating at best. When Alexey discovers Anna disregarded his request, he avows to seek a divorce. Seeking a divorce was quite the undertaking in 19th century Russia, making Alexey's wait rather long. So long that during the interim Anna delivers Vronsky's baby. This seems to smooth things over - Alexey rushes to her side when he hears of her illness and potential death (one she attempted to foresee). 

Post-labor, Anna and Vronsky become rather unhinged. Alexey retracts his desire for a divorce and promises to stay be Anna's side. This throws Vronsky into an absolute tailspin. 

(DISCLAIMER: I'm sure you're reading these Anna posts to understand the gist of this novel. I think the next statement requires a major spoiler alert because my mind was blown by what I am about to write) Vronsky returns to his own home and promptly loses his shit and shoots himself in the chest. That's right, he attempts suicide. It's insanely stupid, but also effective. By the end of part four Anna has returned to him and they have left the country, without divorcing Alexey. 

The other important development in part four is that Levin and Kitty are reunited! Stepan hosts a dinner party ate which the two loves overcome their misunderstandings and become engaged. My little romantic heart did some dancing at this development. I would elaborate further on the details, but those don't matter to me. The real hero of this story has found his mate - and I can continue disliking Anna. 

*All quotes are taken from the 2012 edition of Anna Karenina, written by Leo Tolstoy and edited by Constance Garnet

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