Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Anna & Me: Part Three

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 part one and two of my journey with Anna, click here and here

Surprise! I finally made it through part three of Anna Karenina. It wasn't necessarily slow, but I was simultaneously reading The Night Circus for book club and it was ridiculously good, so Tolstoy took the back seat. 

Part three picks up with Levin holed up in his country estate, attempting to heal his broken heart through the physical labor of farming and agriculture. Through meetings with Sviazhsky, a local district marshal, Levin learns about more efficient farming techniques and attempts to put them in to practice on his land. Though Levin experiences some resistance from the peasants who work his land, he remains firm.

Levin becomes quite enamored with country life, must to his brothers' dismay. It seems evident that Levin's character and his increasingly simple life operate as a stark contrast to the city life in Moscow. Meanwhile, Dolly is also out in the country. Stiva asks that Levin to check in on Dolly, as he believes she is having a hard time. Dolly was initially overwhelmed, but comes to enjoy the simplicity of the country as well. I hate to laugh, but when Stiva's neglect is so laughable. Stiva sees absolutely nothing wrong with leaving his city wife alone in the country with few comforts and little help.  Sure, the disregard Stiva shows for his wife and her needs rings true for such an era, but it's still rather pathetic. Thankfully, Levin gladly checks on Dolly - and finds out some interesting information about his one-time-love Kitty. I was hoping he would go see Kitty when Dolly mentioned she'd be visiting, but it seems I must wait a little longer for their inevitable (please, please, please!) reunion. 

Unsurprisingly, Vronsky begins to show his true colors in part three - much to the dismay of romantic readers, I'm sure. I however, am not surprised in the least. When speaking to his friend Serpuhovskoy, Vronksy seems almost remiss that he has not achieve more in his career. I held on to hope that this exchange would change Vronsky's attitude towards Anna - Serpuhoskoy is married and believes "there's only one way of having love conveniently without its being a hindrance - that's marriage" because others have "ruined their careers for the sake of women." I thought this conversation would urge Vronsky to end his relationship with Anna and perhaps find a wife - or at least concentrate on his career. But alas, my previous suspicions that Vronsky was unworthy (you know, if being with him was even an option for Anna) are proven correct. 

To be sure, Alexey is no knight-in-shining-armor - he's a little cold and stiff. But Anna's husband is not completely unfeeling. Again, as with Stiva, he is not abnormal for the time. While it's sexist for Anna's indiscretions to be so frowned upon with Stiva's own faithlessness goes unpunished, it seems unwise to engage in such an affair when, by all accounts thus far, Alexey is a far better husband and man than other Russian socialites. Alexey's reaction to Anna's infidelity could function as a defense mechanism. Now, to a modern mind his proposal that they go on living life as usual seems ridiculous - but in those times it was not abnormal. Alexey's concern is deeply rooted in his desire to maintain appearances, as it's not until Anna brings her affair to their doorstep that he grows truly angry with her.

So, as with the first two parts, I am left feeling indifferent towards Anna. She has an ideal situation  - Alexey will allow her to continue on as usual and will act as though nothing has happened. Her refusal to follow such demands is shortsighted at best. Vronsky has done nothing to prove he will support her, and despite her worries that Alexey will take her son away if she does not comply, she continues her affair. I am far more interested in Levin's story line. The paper copy I have clearly indicates the two stories are of equal merit, which just furthers my belief that the title of this book is huge misnomer. 

1 comment:

  1. So I was traveling a couple weekends ago, and having finished my book on the way to my destination, I fired up my Kindle for the way home. I had downloaded Anna Karenina ages ago for free (around when the movie came out), and you inspired me to actually give it a go, but I could barely make it three pages in before I was bored to tears! I don't know how you're sticking with it so long. I hope it's simply the translation to English that leaves Tolstoy's writing so utterly simplistic and dry. To each her own, I suppose. Having the plot summary at least is nice to pretend I'm that well-read :-)