anna karenia

Title: anna karenia
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^^^^^^^^^^ LEO TOLSTOY: THE AUTHOR AND HIS TIMES Leo Tolstoy was a man of many parts--soldier, sensualist, country nobleman, writer, teacher and social critic, and, not least, benevolent patriarch. Photographs taken of him in his later years show a fearsome-looking man with long hair and a flowing beard, dressed in peasant's clothes, surrounded by his wife and children. In writing his panoramic novels of Russian life, Tolstoy drew heavily on his varied experiences. Indeed, he gave to some of his central characters, as in Anna Karenina, his own thoughts and feelings, which were sometimes, as you'll see, contradictory. Leo (or Lev) Nikolayevich, Count Tolstoy was born near Moscow on August 28 (September 9, New Style), 1828, into an old aristocratic family that for generations had been in the Czar's inner circle. Orphaned at nine, he was raised and educated by an aunt. In 1844 he entered the University of Kazan where he was greatly influenced by the writings of the 18th-century French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who espoused the virtues of nature and a simple life. He left the university in 1847 without obtaining a degree. Tolstoy then spent time carousing and hunting. Because he was awkward and not as handsome as some of the other young nobles in his social circle, he was nicknamed "Lyvochka the bear." We know from his diaries that Tolstoy was divided against himself: Although he devoted himself fully to having a wild time, he felt guilty about it. But he couldn't determine the source of his guilty feelings. Although he believed in God, he had no patience for organized religion and the rules it imposed on life (he was later excommunicated for his views by the Russian Orthodox Church). Fed up with city life, Tolstoy went back to Yasnaya Polyana (Clear Glade), his family's ancestral estate near Moscow. His plan was to become a farmer and devote himself to improving the lot of peasants. He developed a system whereby he would sell peasants small pieces of land year by year, so that they, too, would be property owners and have a personal stake in the productivity of Yasnaya Polyana. Although the peasants liked him personally, they couldn't understand why a nobleman would try to help them, and so they distrusted his efforts. Terribly disappointed, Tolstoy went to Moscow, where he spent two more years (1848-1850) living the high life. His diaries show a restless, searching young man who gambled and played with women by night, and then chastised himself by day. He began to write during this time and in 1852 published Childhood, a reminiscence that received good reviews. He later wrote Boyhood (1854) and Youth (1856). Perhaps in another burst of restlessness, Tolstoy in 1851 followed one of his brothers, Nicholas, by volunteering for the army; he served in the Caucasus fighting Tatar guerrillas. He continued to write and in 1854-1856 published Sevastopol Sketches. These accounts of the Crimean War (in which Russia fought Turkey, England, France, and Sardinia) catapulted Tolstoy to the front rank of contemporary Russian writers. He left the army in 1855 and went to Saint Petersburg, the Russian capital, where the literary community welcomed him. But Tolstoy had no patience for the intellectuals he found there or for their urbane, middle-class views. He had one dispute after another, the most famous of which was with Ivan Turgenev, then the recognized master of the Russian literary scene. Tolstoy disagreed with his fellow writers basically because as a Slavophile--an admirer of Slavic, and especially Russian culture--he didn't share their enchantment with Western European notions of progress. Tolstoy then traveled extensively in Europe, visiting France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and England. (He spoke French, German, and English.) A major reason for his travels was to study European systems of education, about which he had developed a keen interest. His exposure to European ways, however, made him feel all the more strongly that Russia was a case apart and could not look to the West to help it realize its destiny. In 1859, Tolstoy started a school at Yasnaya Polyana for the children of his peasants. Convinced that refined, European-style education killed youthful exuberance, he did everything possible to nurture his pupils' spontaneity and curiosity. In 1860, Tolstoy's brother Nicholas died of tuberculosis. Tolstoy was deeply affected by his death and later re-created it in Anna Karenina, when he described the death of Levin's brother, also named Nicholas. Like Levin--the novel's hero, whose life he patterned on his own--Tolstoy immersed himself in the affairs of his estate as a way of alleviating his emotional pain. In 1862, Tolstoy married Sofya (Sonya) Andreyevna Behrs, the daughter of a prominent Moscow physician. Then began the most productive period of his life. He wrote War and Peace, considered one of the world's great novels, from 1864 to 1869. He completed Anna Karenina, another masterpiece, in 1876, while producing a series of short stories, as well as essays on religion, art, and social subjects. In his books Tolstoy, like most writers, used material from his personal experiences as well as from the world around him. This is very evident in Anna Karenina. He had wanted for some time to write "a novel of contemporary life," as he put it. Marriage, an enduring theme in his work, would be a central concern. So, too, would adultery. Tolstoy had recently had an affair with one of his peasants and had abandoned the child of this union. He felt extremely guilty, and you can sense this clearly in Anna Karenina. Tolstoy got the idea for the novel's ending and its heroine's first name from the suicide in 1872 of Anna Stepanovna Pirogova, the betrayed common-law wife of one of Tolstoy's neighbors, who threw herself under a train. Tolstoy had known Anna Stepanovna and went to the autopsy following her death. You'll note his passion for close observation in the startlingly exact description of Anna Karenina's suicide. Tolstoy was not only an artist of high standards but also a man continually struggling with spiritual matters. This, too, comes across in Anna Karenina. Levin's struggles and visionary projects in the novel are similar to Tolstoy's. Levin's marriage to Kitty and his happiness in their domestic life reflect Tolstoy's marriage to Sonya and their happy first years together. He based the character of Kitty on Sonya. Anna Karenina is a towering achievement because Tolstoy succeeded not only in presenting a panoramic picture of his era, but because he dealt with aspects of human nature that are timeless. You can find people throughout history with problems similar to Anna's desperation and guilt, Karenin's fear of intimacy, Vronsky's struggle to keep himself from being smothered by Anna's possessiveness. Most readers consider Tolstoy one of the great masters at drawing psychological portraits of people. The insights about human nature you will gain by reading Anna Karenina will probably help you understand the people around you. Tolstoy's later books reflect a man becoming increasingly conservative and religious. In The Kreutzer Sonata (1889), a novel, Tolstoy describes marriage as a wasteland, and sexual relations--even between husband and wife--as essentially evil. In another novel, Resurrection (1899-1900), he violently attacks civilization and argues strongly in favor of an ascetic way of life. A Confession (1882) is a detailed account of Tolstoy's torturous coming to terms with religion. We know from his diaries and from his children's reminiscences that as an old man Tolstoy wanted to leave his family to go off and die alone in the mountains, as religious ascetics before him had done. But the death of his youngest son in 1895 so affected his wife Sonya that he dared not leave her. In his last years, Tolstoy's memory faltered seriously and he suffered fainting spells, after which he would frequently ask for relatives who had died decades before. On November 20, 1910, a month after one of these attacks, he died at the train station in the small town of Astapovo, after having finally decided to flee from Yasnaya Polyana. All his life Tolstoy had been a combatant, a swimmer against the tide. He was at odds with his social class on matters of lifestyle, on priorities in education, on the emancipation of the serfs (which he strongly favored), and in his belief that Russia must avoid industrialization and Western models of progress. He was progressive as an educator, in many ways ahead of his time as a writer, and visionary as a political thinker. Yet he opposed women's rights and became a religious ascetic, patterning himself after such thinkers as Lao-tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher. It has been said that Tolstoy's novels have more sweep than those of any other author in the history of literature. Leo Tolstoy, it could be said, was many men and inhabited many worlds in his lifetime. He acknowledged that he never totally resolved the contradictions between his ideals and the way in which he lived. But he forged those struggles into a singular body of literary work. His novels are masterpieces that readers continue to find exciting and relevant. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: THE PLOT Anna Karenina has two parallel plots rather than one story line. Tolstoy builds his book on the personal quests of Anna and Levin, his two principal characters. For much of the book, their paths are separate; in fact, they don't meet until the end of the book, when the differences between them are especially glaring. The book begins with a domestic crisis. Stiva, Anna's brother, has been caught again cheating on his wife. Anna is able to convince Dolly, her sister-in-law, to forgive Stiva. At this point, the beautiful and charming Anna appears as a kind and generous woman. She is married to Karenin, a high-ranking government official. Relations between them seem stable, polite if not passionate. But then Anna meets, and falls in love with, the young Count Vronsky. She tries to avoid him, but he will not give up. They have a torrid affair, and she becomes pregnant. Unable to live a life of duplicity, she confesses to her husband. Karenin insists that Anna and he go on living as though nothing were wrong. In that way, he says, they will not be criticized and gossiped about by society, whose censure--or, worse, ridicule--he fears. But Anna continues to see Vronsky on the sly. When Karenin finds out, he investigates the ways in which he might obtain a divorce. Anna falls gravely ill after giving birth to Vronsky's daughter. Karenin, however, at what he thinks is her deathbed, forgives her everything. Anna, delirious with fever, swears that all she wants is to be at peace with Karenin, that he is the one she loves. Vronsky, who is also at Anna's bedside, is humiliated in Karenin's presence. Desperately afraid that Anna will soon die, he shoots himself. But he doesn't die, and neither, at this time, does Anna. Karenin realizes that he had, in fact, hoped for her death. Confronted with her living reality, he is unable to summon the forgiving feelings he felt so strongly at her bedside. When Anna goes back to Vronsky, he refuses a divorce and custody of their son, Seriozha. Anna then goes to Italy with Vronsky. Anna, who is now abandoned by her former friends and acquaintances, finds herself condemned to a life of loneliness and idleness. Vronsky, however, as an unmarried man, escapes society's censure; he's free to come and go as he pleases, and does so. Anna becomes increasingly neurotic and fearful. She convinces herself that Vronsky loves someone else, when, in fact, he is as much in love with her as ever. There is a lot of tension beneath the surface and they quarrel frequently. Anna, neither Vronsky's wife nor merely his mistress, depends entirely on his love for her peace of mind. But this love isn't enough for her; no one, at this point, could satisfy Anna's emotional needs. After a particularly bitter argument with Vronsky, she takes her life. Parallel with, and in sharp contrast to, Anna's story is the story of Levin and his pure love (in Tolstoy's view). Levin, a wealthy landowner, comes to town to propose to Kitty, a vivacious and attractive young woman, who is--or thinks she is--in love with Vronsky. She refuses Levin. Vronsky, however, once having met Anna, has no interest in any other woman. Levin is heartbroken by Kitty's refusal. He returns to his country estate and buries himself in work. He is writing a book meant to revolutionize farming practices in Russia. He proposes that landowners strike a 50-50 partnership with laborers. That way, he reasons, the laborers will work harder because they will have a real stake in the harvest, and everyone's profits will rise. Kitty, meanwhile, traumatized by Vronsky's rejection, falls ill. Her family takes her to a German spa. There, she gradually recovers and admits that it was Levin she loved all along. Kitty and Levin meet sometime later. Levin proposes again, and Kitty accepts. They marry and later have a son. Through his happiness with Kitty, Levin is able gradually to come to terms with his lifelong struggle to believe in God. Kitty helps Levin to deal with the death of his brother Nicholas and his horror of death in general. Anna's and Levin's stories veer close to each other at times through such major characters as Stiva, Anna's brother, and Vronsky, who was once Levin's rival for Kitty. Thematically, the quests of Anna and Levin are contrasted. Anna's is a search for personal fulfillment through romantic love; Levin's is one of spiritual fulfillment through marriage, family, and hard work. Through their stories, Tolstoy attempts to evaluate Russia's past and present and to express his vision for its future. Many Russian novels have large numbers of characters, and Anna Karenina is no exception. It can be difficult to keep them all straight, especially since each Russian uses three names. A Russian has a given name (such as Anna or Stepan); a middle name that refers to the father (patronymic), the suffix of which means either "son of" or "daughter of" (for example, Anna Arkadyevna and Stepan Arkadyevich, children of Arkady); and a family name, which also has masculine and feminine forms (Anna Arkadyevna Oblonskaya and Stepan Arkadyevich Oblonsky). When a woman marries, she takes the feminine form of her husband's family name (Anna Arkadyevna Karenina, wife of Karenin). Common masculine suffixes are -ovich, -ievich,--ich, and -ych. Common feminine suffixes are -a,--ovna, -ievna, and--ishna. (Not all English translations include such suffixes. For instance, a popular translation by Rosemary Edmonds has the title Anna Karenin [New York: Penguin, 1954]). Russians also have nicknames (such as Stiva.) The seven principal characters in Anna Karenina are Anna herself, Levin, Vronsky, Stiva (Stepan), Kitty, Dolly, and Karenin. Each of them is considered below in an individual profile. To help you keep track of the others, here is a list of the major and more important minor characters in Anna Karenina: ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: THE OBLONSKY FAMILY Prince Stepan Arkadyevich Oblonsky (Stiva), Anna's brother Princess Darya Alexandrovna Oblonskaya (Dolly), Stiva's wife, Kitty's sister, and eldest daughter of Prince Shcherbatsky Tanya, Grisha, Alyosha, Nikolenka, children of Stiva and Dolly ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: THE KARENIN FAMILY Alexey Alexandrovich Karenin, Anna's husband Anna Arkadyevna Karenina, Karenin's wife, Vronsky's lover, and Stiva's sister Sergey Alexeyich Karenin (Seriozha), Anna and Alexey's son ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: THE LEVIN FAMILY Konstantin Dmitrich Levin (Kostya), Kitty's husband Catherine Alexandrovna Levina (Kitty), Levin's wife, the youngest daughter of Prince Shcherbatsky Mitya, their infant son Nicholas Levin, Kostya's brother ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: THE SHCHERBATSKY FAMILY Prince Alexander Shcherbatsky, the father of Kitty, Dolly, and Nataly Princess Shcherbatskaya, the mother of Kitty, Dolly, and Nataly ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: THE VRONSKY FAMILY Count Alexey Kirilich Vronsky, Anna's lover Countess Vronskaya, his mother Princess Natalie Alexandrovna Lvova, Kitty and Dolly's sister, who lives abroad Prince Lvov (Arseny), her husband Mary Nikolaevna (Masha), who lives with Levin's brother Annushka, Anna's maid Countess Lydia Ivanovna, Karenin's friend, a mystic Princess Elizabeth Fedorovna Tverskaya (Betsy), a society lady who is especially cruel to Anna ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: ANNA ARKADYEVNA KARENINA Rarely in literature is a character so utterly ruined as Anna Karenina. Beautiful and unaffected, she becomes deceptive, jealous, and spiteful. The change in her will probably horrify you, yet even when Anna is destructive she arouses your compassion. In conflict with her mixed-up society, she has no resources against the turmoil within her. She fights a magnificently tough but losing battle. As you will note, there are numerous angles from which to examine her downfall. 1. ANNA IS FATALLY FLAWED. Following this interpretation of Anna's ruin, readers generally contrast her to Levin, the hero of the book. Levin thirsts for spiritual enlightenment, while Anna seeks personal happiness. Levin attains his goal, Anna does not. In her quest, Anna does not think of others. Levin, on the other hand, is obsessed with trying to establish peace and equilibrium between himself and others. Anna's quest is purely emotional, and by the end her reason fails her. She is described as having "an excess of feeling," a trait shared by many of the female characters in Tolstoy's books. Levin is above all lucid, as are all of Tolstoy's heroes. Tolstoy has often been criticized for endowing his female characters with feelings that tend to overpower their brains. Even Anna, arguably the most intelligent and well-educated female character Tolstoy ever created, can't hold on to her wits. 2. ANNA BETRAYS THE FUNCTIONS OF HER SEX. Anna is seen in relief against two other female characters--Dolly and Kitty. The primary function of sex, believes Tolstoy, is to create children, not personal pleasure. Both Dolly and Kitty are wives and mothers before all else. Anna refuses to have children after she and Vronsky begin living together. Not only does Anna refuse her societal role, but she breaks the natural cycle of birth-life-death. Dolly and Kitty both make meaningful lives for themselves, Anna does not. 3. ANNA IS A VICTIM OF HER SOCIETY. Following the custom of her social set, Anna's marriage to Karenin was arranged by relatives. Love--which Anna needs and desires before all else--was never a factor in this match. There is no passion in her marriage with Karenin; their life contributes to Anna's emotional delicacy because it suffocates and frustrates her. Adultery is accepted in Anna's social circle, so long as it is carried on in the proper style. It is understood that most husbands and wives have lovers, but they're expected to be discreet. Anna finds this hypocritical, and Vronsky, madly in love, makes no attempt to hide it either. Yet her society has a strong hold on Anna. When Karenin asks what will give her peace, she feels too guilty to say, "To divorce you, keep our son, and live with Vronsky." Although Anna and Vronsky retire to their own world, Anna is again tripped up by convention. Her friends abandon her because she is "living in sin." Vronsky, though, can go where he wishes. Anna is enraged at the double standard. Loneliness drives her nearly insane. Reeling from the brutal treatment of her former friends, she's unable to believe in Vronsky's love. Where once her love for him was passionate and tender, it becomes possessive and vengeful. Pathologically insecure, Anna destroys herself in order to spite Vronsky. You could also say that neither Karenin nor Vronsky is a perfect match for Anna, for both men, in different ways, are products of their society. False and corrupt, such a society could never produce a worthy man for a woman as intelligent and honestly passionate as Anna. Tolstoy made no secret of his contempt for city life and "society." Anna's death--which he based on a true incident--can therefore be seen as his way of indicting the society that destroyed her. 4. ANNA REPRESENTS THE CITY. For Tolstoy, the city denotes alienation and corruption. He believes that cities and urban values would ultimately destroy Russia. As a woman of society, Anna embodies the sparkle, sophistication and seductiveness--as well as the depravity--of the city. By destroying her, Tolstoy scores a small victory in his battle to save Russia. 5. ANNA REPRESENTS TOLSTOY'S DARK SIDE. Like Anna, Tolstoy had an adulterous affair, with a peasant woman on his estate. And, like Anna, he abandoned the child he had with his extramarital lover. Tolstoy felt terrible guilt over this affair. His death sentence for Anna has been interpreted as a gesture of self-loathing. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: KONSTANTIN DMITRICH LEVIN (KOSTYA) Levin is the hero of Anna Karenina. In fact, some readers believe Anna was created by Tolstoy primarily to point up Levin's superiority. Where Anna maneuvers hysterically to achieve the perfect romance, Levin strives to find coherence in life and death, love and work. Anna is a portrait of alienation; Levin finds harmony with those around him. In Anna, you see the moral collapse of urban society; in Levin, you see Tolstoy's hopes for the future of Russia. Levin changes during the course of the novel. He achieves harmony in several ways: 1. LOVE AND PASSION Before he married, Levin had numerous sexual involvements, all merely to satisfy his youthful lustiness. His love for Kitty, however, is emotional and spiritual, as well as physical. He is entirely faithful to his wife; for them, sex has a sacred quality. In this, Levin contrasts with Stiva, who never finds sexual happiness in marriage, and with Anna, who never finds emotional security in her sexual relations. 2. LOVE AND WORK Levin sometimes feels overwhelmed by his responsibilities as a husband, father, landowner, and estate manager. Yet, by the end of Anna Karenina, he realizes that his mission--working the land, sharing the proceeds with his peasants--not only provides him income but will provide his heirs with meaningful work and a foothold in the future of Russia. 3. INTELLECTUAL AND PHYSICAL WORK Tolstoy did not admire Russia's urban intellectuals who, he felt, had no understanding of, or appreciation for, the peasants, whom he considered the backbone of the country. Levin, well-educated and himself an intellectual, finds deep satisfaction in toiling side-by-side with the peasants. Levin's book, which advances his (and Tolstoy's) belief that peasants must be able to own land, represents a synthesis of physical and mental labors. 4. CITY AND COUNTRY At the beginning of the novel, Levin is terribly uncomfortable in the city. At times, he seems even somewhat boorish. Kitty, though, is from the city and enjoys life there. When they spend the winter in Moscow, Levin manages to make a life for himself in the city. Under his young wife's beneficent influence, he shows you more social grace and polish than you would have imagined possible. 5. LIFE AND DEATH Levin's greatest victory is arriving at a less panicky, more accepting attitude toward death. In the early and middle part of the novel, Levin can hardly bear to look at his dying brother, let alone talk to him about his impending death. When Levin isn't shutting the eventuality of death entirely from his mind, he dwells on it morbidly. For a time, Levin believes that death robs life of all meaning and that a God who permits death must be evil. In time--after his marriage, the death of his brother, and the birth of his son--Levin realizes that life is a cycle, and that death has its rightful place in that cycle. 6. ATHEISM AND FAITH Levin's understanding that birth, life, and death form a whole enables him to be open to the possibility of belief in God. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: COUNT ALEXEY KIRILICH VRONSKY Vronsky is described (by Kitty's father) as "a perfect specimen of Saint Petersburg gilded youth." He is an aristocrat, a soldier, a horseman, and a womanizer. He has charm to burn, polish to spare, and looks that comrades envy. In his time and place, he is far from unusual. As Kitty's father puts it, men like Vronsky "are a dime a dozen." But Vronsky's affair with Anna Karenina sets him apart from his peers. Many readers feel that Vronsky is the worst villain in this story. Others feel that he is more limited than corrupt, more baffled than cunning, more desperate than cruel. As you read, you will have to come up with your own assessment. At the beginning of Anna Karenina, Vronsky leads Kitty on with little thought for her feelings. He also gives the stationmaster's wife 200 rubles just to impress Anna Karenina. Neither of these incidents makes you think that Vronsky is very deep. Perhaps the most damning event of all is the steeplechase: Vronsky, distracted by the praise of the crowd, makes a mistake that costs his horse her life. On the other hand, Vronsky is not satisfied with a secretive liaison with Anna. He wants to marry her and have a family life. He gives up his dreams of being a career soldier in order to be with Anna. He is more mature than Anna in terms of their relationship. Many readers criticize Vronsky for not insisting that Anna's former friends include her in their activities--after all, they're his friends, too. It may be that his sympathies are limited. Society doesn't punish Vronsky the way it does Anna for living with him. He is unable--because he doesn't experience it himself--to appreciate Anna's pain. It may also be that Vronsky needs some time to socialize by himself--Anna, by this point, is extremely hard to live with. Yet in spite of her jealousy, her temper, and her tears, Vronsky continues to love Anna, is faithful to her, and does not consider leaving her. Vronsky is devastated by Anna's suicide. At the end, you see him going off to fight the Turks on behalf of the Slavs. Some readers say that he wants to do something with his life; others that he is backing into an "honorable" suicide. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: PRINCE STEPAN ARKADYEVICH OBLONSKY (STIVA) "Everything was upset in the Oblonskys' house," Tolstoy writes at the beginning of Anna Karenina--and it's all because of Stiva, Anna's brother. Dolly, Stiva's wife, has learned of yet another of his love affairs, and this time she's threatening divorce. Stiva is charming and sentimental. He loves good food, good wine, lively conversation, music, the theater, parties--and women. Everyone likes Stiva, he is so much fun to have around. And no one is a better host. However, Stiva is also deceitful, and in certain ways cruel. He never intended to be, and never is faithful to his wife, who loves him. He can't help himself, and besides, he's only behaving like most of the men he knows. Does he rate a plus or a minus in your estimation? The bane of Stiva's existence is money. Years of high living have depleted his money, and now he's starting to use his wife's inheritance to pay his gambling debts. It has been said that Stiva is but a shallower version of Anna. He lives by his passions, but nowhere nearly as intensely as his sister. Good-natured Stiva is Tolstoy's portrait of decadence, hypocrisy, and self-indulgence. Still, he radiates charm. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: PRINCESS CATHERINE ALEXANDROVNA SHCHERBATSKY (KITTY) Kitty finds her deepest happiness in being a wife and mother, a role for women that Tolstoy favored. Absolutely clear about her place, she brings harmony to her home and peace of mind to her husband. She has an instinctive appreciation for the human cycle--birth, life, death--and does not fear it. Though not well-read, Kitty is very intelligent and extremely practical. She has abiding faith and trust in the goodness of God. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: PRINCESS DARYA ALEXANDROVNA OBLONSKAYA (DOLLY) Dolly is Kitty's sister, Stiva's wife, and Anna's sister-in-law. She represents the long-suffering betrayed wife and devoted mother. In many ways, Dolly is heroic. She makes do with little money, she raises good children, she is, in general, clear--though unhappy--about her lot in life. Her husband's infidelities have robbed her of dignity, financial and emotional security, and a sense of herself as an attractive woman. Yet she carries on with almost no bitterness. In spite of Stiva's failings, she loves and is true to him. You might say that Dolly is a fool, but given the society she lives in, she makes the best of her options (which are, anyway, very few). Dolly is also compassionate and a true friend. Although everyone else avoids Anna, she visits her and remains her friend. Dolly devotes herself to those she loves, which makes her a type of heroine according to Tolstoy. Many readers feel she gets a raw deal in the novel. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: ALEXEY ALEXANDROVICH KARENIN Karenin is obsessed with appearances, with doing what is "correct," with order. He is very rational, and has hardly any imagination. He's ponderous rather than passionate and is frightened of strong emotions. By the end, Karenin is pathetic. He and Anna have a proper marriage. Their ways are regular and their household is prosperous, but the sexual charge between them is essentially dead. This is fine with Karenin--he doesn't go in for romance. In fact, he married Anna, at the insistence of Anna's aunt, after he had flirted with Anna at a ball. He loves Anna, less because of the woman she is--he remains indifferent to that aspect of conjugal intimacy--than because she is simply his wife. Once married, Karenin plays the role of husband completely. Unlike Stiva, he is faithful; Karenin obeys every letter of the law. When Karenin learns of Anna's affair with Vronsky, the only demand he makes is that their life go on as usual, so that no one might find out that anything is wrong in their home life. He is concerned more with superficial honor than with his own or his wife's happiness. At what he believes is Anna's deathbed, Karenin undergoes a sort of religious awakening. He vows to forgive her and Vronsky, to give her anything she wants, so long as it brings peace. But he's unable to fulfill the Christian ideal of forgiveness--she's too egotistical. He tells himself he keeps custody of his and Anna's son out of consideration for the boy. Can you suggest another reason? Karenin is as easily manipulated as he is manipulative. You know that he was maneuvered into his marriage. And virtually all his actions are dictated by the conventions of society. At the end, having failed in his efforts to be a true Christian, he is easy prey for Lydia Ivanovna, a mystic who uses her "religion" as a way of keeping Karenin close to herself and an enemy to Anna. You might contrast Levin's religious awakening with Karenin's. After his, Levin resolves to be more humane; Karenin, however, is confirmed in his plans for vengeance. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: SETTING The setting of Anna Karenina shifts back and forth between the city and the countryside. Tolstoy believed that the land was Russia's most precious asset and that country life was the truly Russian way of life. His use of setting in the novel is closely tied to this theme. In the city, Tolstoy shows you a shallow, hypocritical drawing-room society made up mostly of idle aristocrats, bureaucrats, and "professional social gadflies." Episodes that contain the seeds of disaster, scenes of cruelty, and examples of self-delusion and deceit take place in the city. Anna gives in to Vronsky's charms in the city, where the two also first make love; Karenin's fake fulfillment of the Christian ideal of forgiveness happens at Anna's bedside in Saint Petersburg; Anna's former friends ostracize her at the Saint Petersburg opera house. All the characters are affected negatively by city life. Anna and Vronsky fight more in the city than in the country. Kitty and Levin, too, are happier in the country than in the city. Levin, usually so careful and thrifty, finds that he overspends during the winter, when he and his family live in the city. Scenes of quite different character occur in the country, where Levin, for example, creates a meaningful, enlightened life with his family and farm workers. In the country, Levin has a true spiritual illumination. Tolstoy expresses his hope for the future of Russia in Levin's new farming system and relationship with peasants. But Tolstoy was afraid that urban priorities would destroy country life and, in his view, Russia. In describing Stiva's sale of his forest, Tolstoy depicts the ignorance that city people have of the value of land. Tolstoy gives form to another of his fears in writing of Stiva's management of a partnership between banks and the railroads to develop train transportation all through Russia. This plan would necessitate the destruction of great tracts of fertile farm land. In Anna Karenina, the train station is synonymous with disaster. Anna and Vronsky first meet at a train station. Anna has a recurring nightmare set in a train station, and she commits suicide by throwing herself under a train. Our last encounter with Vronsky is at a train station: he is departing for the Slavonic war in Turkey, a cause Tolstoy opposed. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: THEMES "I will write a novel about a woman who commits adultery," Tolstoy reportedly said to his wife as he began Anna Karenina. But his concerns were broader than that, and in telling Anna's story, he touches on a number of important themes. 1. MARRIAGE Many readers think Anna Karenina is the greatest novel about marriage ever written. Tolstoy draws portraits of three marriages: Dolly and Stiva's, Anna and Karenin's, Kitty and Levin's, as well as Anna and Vronsky's domestic relationship. All but Kitty and Levin are unhappy. Stiva regards marriage as a social convention, something one has to submit to. He would like Dolly to make as few emotional demands upon him as possible; her job is to run the household, supervise the education of the children, and make as much money as possible available to him for his personal pleasure. Outwardly, Anna and Karenin appear to have a happy home. But appearances are deceiving; they have no romance or sexual excitement between them. For Anna, their life is suffocatingly predictable. Anna and Vronsky's relationship fails for the opposite reason: theirs is little more than a romantic entanglement in which sex (for Anna, at any rate) is more important than anything else. The marriage of Kitty and Levin is typical of what Tolstoy considered ideal. It is a voluntary, rather than arranged, match between a man who is happy in his work and spiritually at peace and a woman who feels that her purpose in life is to devote herself to her family. 2. WOMAN'S ROLE Some readers believe that Anna suffers because she betrays the functions of her sex. Her life disintegrates because by refusing to fulfill her "proper" role in life, she clashes not only with her husband, but also with her society and the man she truly loves. Out of sync with the scheme of things, she's unable to restrain her self-destructive impulses. But there's another way to consider Anna's failure as a woman. She refuses to have more children with Vronsky because she fears that pregnancy, nursing, and the other responsibilities of motherhood will lessen her sexual attractiveness. For Vronsky, she wants to be constantly beguiling and romantic--in short, an object of perennial delight. In Tolstoy's terms, this desire of Anna's denotes failure because it places her outside the grand cycle of birth-life-death. In twentieth--century feminist terms, Anna fails on this score because she strives to be an object rather than a person. 3. RELIGION Tolstoy treats the theme of religion in much the same way that he handles the theme of marriage--by using several characters to embody particular viewpoints and experiences. Kitty has an unquestioning faith in God and His goodness. Death holds no horror for Kitty, since she believes that death has not only a rightful place in the natural order, but a higher, spiritual purpose as well. Karenin tries hard to be a good Christian. After learning of Anna's love affair with Vronsky, he strives to turn the other cheek. But he cannot. What he really wants is to be "virtuous," in order to satisfy his ego rather than his soul. Until the very end of the novel, Levin battles with his lack of faith. His first struggles are with the fact of death--which, he holds, doesn't allow for the possibility of the existence of God. It is through Kitty, who knows how to care for his dying brother, that Levin perceives that death may be part of a benign, though mysterious, cycle. Part VIII, Chapter 12 is when Levin has his final spiritual illumination. After a talk with a peasant, Levin realizes that we must live for "what is good," Goodness--because it is outside cause and effect--is what Levin construes as God. 4. VENGEANCE "Vengeance is mine; I will repay" is one of the most puzzling epigraphs in world literature. Biblical in origin (from St. Paul's letter to the Romans), the sentence in its entirety reads, "'Vengeance is mine; I will repay,' saith the Lord." Karenin takes vengeance on Anna, Anna's former friends take vengeance on her, and Anna takes vengeance on Vronsky. But Tolstoy said he was concerned primarily with the vengeance of God. He believes that God punishes those who live only for themselves. And so Anna and Vronsky's passion for one another becomes their torment and their doom. 5. RUSSIA Anna Karenina is also a panoramic novel of Russia. Tolstoy addresses himself to what he considered to be the crucial issues in his nation. A. City vs. Country Tolstoy is convinced that city "society" will ruin Russia. He feels the backbone of Russia is the rural areas and peasantry. Stiva, therefore, as the personification of urban values is one of the villains in the novel. Levin, the enlightened landowner, is the hero. B. The Emancipation of the Serfs Tolstoy favored the 1861 Emancipation. Before that, Russian peasants were essentially slaves, bound to their landowners, not all of whom, needless to say, treated them with the concern that Levin (and Tolstoy) showed their serfs. When the Czar decreed the serfs free in 1861, the peasants were permitted to own land, to accumulate capital, to employ others, and to form local governing bodies. C. Industrialization The 19th century was a time of rapid industrialization in Europe. Tolstoy (and Levin) concluded--after a tour of Europe--that Russia was not meant to be industrialized, that the "gold-mine" of Russia is in the land, in farming. Tolstoy held that Europe and Russia were vastly different, not only in terms of their resources, but in temperament, soul, and destiny, as well. D. The Slavic Question In 1875 (while Tolstoy was finishing the novel), the Slavs living in the Ottoman Empire revolted against the discrimination they had long suffered. Many Russians favored supporting the Slavs and fought against the Turks. Stiva and Vronsky support the campaign; Levin does not. Where do you think Tolstoy stood on this question? 6. HARMONY In Anna Karenina, the only happy characters are those who strike a balance between the various demands made upon them, who manage to resolve conflicts between themselves and those to whom they are close, and between competing ambitions. Think of Levin, Anna, and Stiva. Which character achieves balance in his life? 7. ANNA AND LEVIN The title of the novel bears the name of the heroine, but the story belongs equally to the hero. Tolstoy compares and contrasts Anna and Levin. Trace the development of these two characters. Think about the ways they are affected by the society in which they live, their goals, and the obstacles they try to overcome. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: STYLE Henry James (whose novels are models of structural clarity and symmetry) once referred to Tolstoy's War and Peace as a "loose and baggy monster." He might have said the same about Anna Karenina, which, like War and Peace, is an epic, a sweeping story on a grand scale. On the other hand, Anna Karenina is more compact than War and Peace, and might be said to be a psychological rather than a historical epic. It's easy to imagine Tolstoy thinking of his novels much the way he thought of Russia--as territories so vast their boundaries are out of sight. Tolstoy's epics are extremely realistic. They are filled with precise physical details intended to convey to you an idea, a mood, a feeling. Every time Karenin cracks his knuckles, for example, you know he is nervous. When Anna screws up her eyes, you know she is straining to see, trying to understand what is happening either in front of or inside her. Kitty's "truthful eyes" are a window to her undeceiving nature. And Stiva's frequent playing with his whiskers is an indication of his vanity and self-centeredness. Tolstoy's set pieces--minutely rendered, theatrically staged sequences--by themselves would have guaranteed him a permanent place in literature. Not only does he give you an indelible picture of a specific incident but he intertwines the advancement of plot, the development of character, and the elaboration of major themes. Notable set pieces in Anna Karenina include Kitty and Levin's wedding, the steeplechase, the harvest, and the hunt. Symbolism and foreshadowing are also important techniques; Tolstoy often uses them together. A symbol is something that stands for something else. Tolstoy often uses a stormy sky to symbolize--or represent--the turmoil in Levin's soul. One event is said to foreshadow another if it gives a hint of what is to happen later. For example, Vronsky's killing his horse in the steeplechase foreshadows his responsibility in Anna's death later on. It also symbolizes Vronsky's careless egotism. The train station is a symbol of disaster. Anna's recurring dream set in a train station foretells--or foreshadows--that she will die in such a place. Tolstoy did not go in for fancy language. What he wanted, above all, was to communicate directly to his readers, and he does so through fine observations presented in vivid, precise language. The translation considered the closest to Tolstoy's style is that of Aylmer Maude (1918; revised 1938). In 1901, Constance Garnett, the renowned translator of Dostoevsky and other Russian writers, did an English version of Anna Karenina. Garnett's translation is a more old--fashioned reading than Maude's. Compare the following passages from Part VII, Chapter 23: In order to carry through any undertaking in family life, there must necessarily be either complete division between the husband and wife, or loving agreement. When the relations of a couple are vacillating and neither one thing nor the other, no sort of enterprise can be undertaken. (Garnett) Before any definite step can be taken in a household, there must be either complete division or loving accord between husband and wife. When their relations are indefinite it is impossible for them to make any move. (Maude) Another comparison, from Part I, Chapter 22, will show further the difference between the two translations: It was one of Kitty's happy days. Her dress did not feel tight anywhere, the lace around her bodice did not slip, the bows did not crumple or come off, the pink shoes with their high curved heels did not pinch but seemed to make her feet lighter. The thick rolls of fair hair kept up as if they had grown naturally on the little head. All three buttons on each of her long gloves, which fitted without changing the shape of her hand, fastened without coming off. The black velvet ribbon of her locket clasped her neck with unusual softness. The ribbon was charming, and when Kitty had looked at her neck in the glass at home, she felt that that ribbon was eloquent. (Maude) It was one of Kitty's best days. Her dress was not uncomfortable anywhere; her lace berthe did not droop anywhere; her rosettes were not crushed nor torn off, her pink slippers with high, hollowed-out heels did not pinch, but gladdened her feet; and the thick rolls of fair chignon kept up on her head as if they were her own hair. All the three buttons buttoned up without tearing on the long glove that covered her hand without concealing its lines. The black velvet of her locket nestled with special softness round her neck. That velvet was delicious; at home, looking at her neck in the looking-glass, Kitty had felt that the velvet was speaking. (Garnett) Again, Garnett's version is a bit dated--we don't refer to "berthes" any longer, nor do we say that shoes "gladden" our feet. But note an interesting difference, less to do with language than with perception. Garnett, a woman, imagines more fully the feel of the velvet locket on her neck; she sees it as speaking to the wearer. According to Maude, a man, the locket speaks to Kitty's admirers. Look through both translations. Maude's is said to come closer to Tolstoy's vigor. Yet, keep in mind that Garnett was one of the earliest major English language translators of Russian literature. All translations done after hers owe her some debt. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: POINT OF VIEW Tolstoy uses an omniscient, or all-knowing, narrator. This means that the governing point of view in Anna Karenina is Tolstoy's. Tolstoy was always forthright about the fact that he was a moralist. He does not just depict the world in his novels, he passes judgment on it as well. Tolstoy expresses his own viewpoint, and manipulates ours, through his characters. His hero, Levin, is essentially a mouthpiece for him. Anna, although she has many traits that Tolstoy admired, went against Tolstoy's moral code, and so he had to destroy her. Karenin, who represents a type of person Tolstoy detested, is the obvious villain in the story. Through the device of the interior monologue, Tolstoy describes in detail the thoughts of some of his characters. For example, Anna's carriage ride to the train station where she commits suicide is told through Anna's eyes, and the ball at which she steals Vronsky's heart is told through Kitty's eyes. By occasionally shifting points of view, Tolstoy heightens the drama of the story. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: FORM AND STRUCTURE The structure of Anna Karenina is based on the major characters and what happens to them. The two principal stories in the book are Anna's and Levin's. A third plot element is the domestic and financial saga of the Oblonskys. Kitty's time at the German spa--during which she comes to terms with her true feelings for Levin--also gets lengthy treatment. Tolstoy shifts back and forth between these stories, telling each chronologically. The novel is divided into Books I and II; each Book is divided into four Parts. (Book I contains Parts I-IV; Book II, Parts V-VIII.) The turning points for Anna and Levin--Anna's leaving Karenin to live with Vronsky and Levin's becoming engaged to Kitty--take place at the close of Book I. The last section of the novel--Book II, Part VIII--deals with the Russian involvement in the war between the Turks and Slavs. Tolstoy's intention in this part was to reunite his characters' stories with the story of Russia. The Turkish War was going on in 1875-76, when Tolstoy was completing the novel. Tolstoy wrote this chapter to underscore the relevance of Anna Karenina and to present his readers with urgent questions regarding their day-to-day lives. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: BOOK I, PART I Anna Karenina gets off to a fast start, opening with a full-scale domestic crisis: Dolly has learned that Stiva is having an affair with their French governess, and is threatening divorce. Anna Karenina, Stiva's sister, comes for a visit and convinces Dolly to make up with Stiva. Konstantin Levin, an old friend of Stiva's, arrives in Moscow to propose marriage to Kitty Shcherbatsky, Dolly's younger sister. Kitty, a young woman who has just made her debut in society, refuses Levin, as she believes she's in love with the dashing Count Vronsky. Upon meeting Anna, Kitty is impressed with her glamour, charm, and apparent kindness. But Anna steals Vronsky's heart. By the end of Part I, Stiva and Dolly have achieved a shaky balance in their troubled family life: Levin is heartbroken over Kitty, Kitty is heartbroken over Vronsky, and Anna is torn between her passion for the young count and her obligations to her husband and son. If by then you feel a little breathless, don't worry; you will have covered a lot of ground. NOTE: The epigraph--"Vengeance is Mine, I will repay"--is from the Bible, specifically from Romans 12:19. In a letter to Vikenti Vikentevich Veresaev, writer, physician, and friend of Tolstoy, Tolstoy wrote: "I chose that epigraph in order to explain the idea that the bad things man does have as their consequence all the bitter things, which come not from people, but from God, and that is what Anna Karenina herself experienced." Keep this in mind as you read the novel, especially toward the end. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS I-VI The first line of Anna Karenina is one of the most celebrated in world literature: "All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Not only does the line lead you directly to the crisis at hand (Dolly and Stiva's), but it sets up the premise that Tolstoy will use in developing his story. The essence of the novel is the central characters in their respective relationships--Stiva and Dolly, Anna and Karenin, Anna and Vronsky. You learn a lot about Stiva in these first chapters. Despite the havoc he has wreaked on his household, he wakes up at his usual time after a pleasant dream about the high life--wine, women and song. It isn't until he realizes that his dressing gown is not in its usual place that he remembers he hasn't slept with his wife, but was banished to a couch in his study. Stiva doesn't regret his affair (there have been many of those); he regrets having got caught. NOTE: Tolstoy presents Stiva's morning routine in great detail. Tolstoy, a major realist writer, gives you a wealth of seemingly insignificant tidbits about his characters' habits, tendencies, and mannerisms. At times you may feel bogged down with information, but bear in mind that the details add up to give you a concrete picture of the world inside the novel. Tolstoy's exactitude makes the story that much more searing because you get an almost photographic image of the characters, which makes it easy to identify with them. How closely Tolstoy must have watched those around him! Let's tally the details that Tolstoy gives us about Stiva's morning habits and see what they add up to. Stiva plunges himself into his activities in order to forget his troubles. This tells you he's not a particularly reflective person who tries hard to avoid feeling guilty even when he's in the wrong. He reads a Liberal newspaper. Unlike the Conservatives, who emphasize the importance of organized religion and close family life, the Liberals hold that religion distracts one from the fun to be had in this life (as opposed to the afterlife) and that marriage is an outmoded institution. Tolstoy was a Conservative; by telling you that Stiva reads a Liberal newspaper--a seemingly small detail--Tolstoy is letting you know that Stiva figures as a villain in the novel. A widow drops by to ask Stiva's help with a petition she's submitting to a government agency. This should alert you to the fact that Stiva is in a position of power. Though he doesn't care about the widow and her problem, Stiva helps her because he likes appearing powerful and wants others to think well of him. You also get the impression that in Tolstoy's Russia connections are vital if you need a government agency to act on your behalf. Through careful placement of telling details, Tolstoy has given you not only a vivid portrait of Stiva, but a good look at his society as well. Tolstoy digresses to give you a bit of Stiva's history. Though Stiva had not done well at school (he was lazy and mischievous) he nonetheless has a distinguished government career. This is partly because he had good connections, and partly because he is so little interested in his work that he keeps a valuable objectivity on office matters. NOTE: Tolstoy is making a comment here on government agencies and bureaucracy in general, and city life in particular. To Tolstoy, Stiva represents the worst of both environments: He hasn't really earned what he has, and his progress is due more to lack of interest than to devotion. How do you think Stiva would fare in today's government bureaucracy or corporate world? It nearly slips his mind, but on his way out of the house Stiva does remember to apologize to Dolly. Dolly breaks down, infuriated and humiliated by Stiva's pity. She wants--and realizes she will never have--his love. NOTE: THE "FRENCH MARRIAGE" The type of marriage that Dolly and Stiva have was not unusual in Tolstoy's time. Many marriages were arranged in order to enhance both families' financial and social position. Romance was not considered a major ingredient in these marriages, and husbands and wives frequently had lovers on the side. In fact, it was not uncommon for a man to provide his mistress with an apartment, wardrobe, spending money, and so forth. This type of marriage is sometimes called a "French marriage," as arranged marriages were the rule in court society of 18th--and 19th-century France. The Russian nobility often modeled their conduct and social practices after the French. You might want to read the novels of Honore de Balzac, particularly La Cousine Bette (1846), for a detailed treatment of the "French marriage." Although spouses were not expected to be true to one another, they were expected to be discreet in carrying on their extramarital affairs. Later in the novel Anna gets into trouble because she flaunts her affair with Vronsky, refusing to play by rules she considers hypocritical. What do you think of the concept of a "French marriage?" Think about the ways this sort of marriage affects both sexes. Pay special attention to the difference in men's and women's roles as exemplified by the Oblonsky marriage. And think about the pain that is caused if one partner does not want a "French marriage." This will figure prominently as the story unfolds. Levin arrives to see Stiva. This is your first encounter with the hero of the novel. Notice the contrast between Stiva and Levin. Stiva is the epitome of urbane charm; Levin seems a bit bumbling in comparison. Tolstoy, who distrusted city slickers, introduces here his theme on the values of country life vs. city life. Contrast Levin's seriousness about marriage with Stiva's attitude: this, too, lets you know that Tolstoy favors Levin. NOTE: As he thinks about Kitty, Levin recalls that the Shcherbatsky family always had a French governess (as do the Oblonskys) and that Kitty and her sisters were required to speak French fluently. This was not unusual in upper-class families in Tolstoy's time. A thorough knowledge of French was a status symbol. Tolstoy, though he spoke French, resented this snobbery. He was Russian through and through, and was proud of it. You'll see that he sometimes inserts French words into his characters' dialogue. He does this so their speech will be realistic. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS VII-XI Tolstoy introduces two important themes: the insufficiency of a purely intellectual approach to life, and Russian politics. As he often does, Tolstoy has two characters--in this case, Levin and Sergius--argue the issues raised by his themes. While in Moscow, Levin stays with his half-brother, Sergius Ivanich Koznyshev (Sergey), a well-known intellectual and writer. The two men rarely talk of personal matters; when they meet they invariably argue over politics and philosophy. This time it's no different. Levin tells Sergey that he's no longer a member of the zemstvo (local council). Sergey criticizes Levin for having quit. NOTE: THE ZEMSTVOS In Tolstoy's time, Russia had a centralized government headed by the Czar. The zemstvos were local councils made up primarily of landowners. The zemstvos tried to take care of problems such as grain storage and relations between landowners and peasants, on a local level. On matters that had to be decided at the national level, the zemstvos would make recommendations in the hope that the higher government agencies would accept their suggestions. The zemstvos were relatively new in Tolstoy's time. Levin (and Tolstoy) had reservations about the zemstvos because peasants were not nearly as well represented as wealthy landowners and because they feared that the landowners would try to use the zemstvos to take advantage of the peasants, who had virtually no education or prior political experience. You learn that Levin's brother Nicholas has been seriously ill with tuberculosis (often called consumption in the novel). Levin gets so depressed when he thinks of Nicholas that he tries to put him out of his thoughts for the time being. At this point Levin can't deal with the idea of death. Coming to terms with death in general and Nicholas' death in particular will be one of Levin's major struggles in the novel. The first order of business, he feels, is to propose to Kitty. Levin goes to the skating rink to meet Kitty, who is there with her family. He shows off, trying to impress her with his skating finesse. Kitty feels anew her fondness for Levin, but believes she's in love with Vronsky, a society man. Kitty's mother favors Vronsky as a match for Kitty, and though Princess Shcherbatsky invites Levin to their home, she does so rather coldly. Poor Levin's more nervous than ever. Levin and Stiva dine at a restaurant of Stiva's choosing--the Angleterre (French for "England")--to which Stiva is in debt. This is the first mention of Stiva's increasingly serious financial problems. Again Tolstoy makes a point of contrasting the two men. Stiva is a picture of elegance and polish and is relaxed in posh surroundings. Levin feels like a bull in a china shop. But he also feels somewhat scornful of finery for the sake of finery and anything that seems to him to have a shallow emphasis on appearance. Take note that Stiva refuses to speak French with the waiter. As you know, knowledge of French was a sign of being upper class; Stiva refuses to grant the waiter this bit of social status. Would you have expected Stiva to be such a snob? Levin and Stiva talk about women. Levin admits that he feels guilty over having "sowed his wild oats" as a youth and fears that he is now unworthy of Kitty. He wants not only Kitty's love, but her forgiveness, too. NOTE: Levin is struggling with a matter that preoccupied Tolstoy. Tolstoy, too, sought sanctity in marriage--after having played around a lot as a young man--and had an extramarital affair (just before writing Anna Karenina) of which he was greatly ashamed. Levin represents one side of Tolstoy's inner conflict, Anna the other. Stiva describes Vronsky in glowing terms: he's a first-rate fellow, a good horseman, clever, slated for success. (Take note of the qualities Stiva admires. They do not square with Tolstoy's criteria.) Nonetheless, Stiva is on Levin's side, and advises him to propose to Kitty the next day, in the classic manner. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS XII-XV Tolstoy begins this section by emphasizing Kitty's youth and her surprising success in her first season in society. She'd had not only two serious suitors (Levin and Vronsky) but flocks of admirers as well. Levin's arrival on the scene and his obviously serious intentions spark some arguments between Kitty's parents. Prince Shcherbatsky favors Levin, finding him solid, forthright, and sincere in his love. The princess favors Vronsky--handsome, dashing, polished. She finds Levin awkward, overly critical of city life, too countrified. Tolstoy uses the quarrel between the Shcherbatskys to highlight a dilemma of the time. In accordance with tradition, the marriage between the prince and princess had been arranged by relatives. But times have changed. The princess honestly doesn't know how marriages come about now. The French--and old Russian--way of deciding marriages for young people was out of favor. The English way--letting young people decide entirely for themselves--frightens the princess; anyway, it too is frowned upon in Russian society. The princess realizes that it has to be a mixture of free choice and guidance and is left feeling uncertain about what her role as Kitty's mother should be. Weighing on both the prince and the princess is Dolly's situation. Oblonsky, too, had been an "ideal match," but he's making Dolly miserable. The prince fears that Vronsky may be cut from the same cloth as Oblonsky. The next day when Levin proposes, Kitty tells him it's "impossible." She's unable to tell Levin what her feelings are, for she doesn't know. Upon hearing his proposal, she was "filled with rapture." But it lasted for only a moment. Then thoughts of Vronsky crowded their way into her mind. Levin tries to leave the Shcherbatsky's home, but is prevented from doing so by the entrance of Kitty's mother. Every minute of the evening is torture for Levin. One of Kitty's friends, Countess Nordston, dislikes Levin and makes a point of picking on him. When Vronsky arrives, Levin feels just about finished off; he doesn't wonder that Kitty prefers the handsome, socially graceful young officer. NOTE: Tolstoy makes the point--through the prince--that women are incapable of recognizing serious intentions in a suitor. The prince says that a marriage between Kitty and Vronsky would spell trouble. Do you agree that men are more perceptive in this regard? Doesn't this seem a bit at odds with Tolstoy's feeling that women are essentially domestic, in tune with things pertaining to hearth and home? Tolstoy makes another point in this section. First he establishes that Countess Nordston is shallow and nasty; then he has her criticize life in the country for being dull. This is one of Tolstoy's favorite devices: he picks a character whom he dislikes and has that person express opinions counter to his own. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS XVI-XXII Tolstoy gives you a chance to become acquainted with Vronsky in Chapter XVI through a mixture of biographical detail and interior monologue. You learn that Vronsky had no family life as a child, that his mother was a famous socialite and femme fatale. Vronsky still has a troubled relationship with his mother: He doesn't respect her loose way of life and he resents that she meddles in his life. Though Vronsky's mother is a minor character in the novel, her relations with Vronsky will have an important effect on the plot. You also learn that Vronsky doesn't realize he is trifling with Kitty in a way that could seriously hurt her feelings or damage her reputation. He's young and self-centered, and is too busy enjoying himself to worry about anything. Yet, he's beginning to grow tired of the sort of night life that so enchants Stiva. Keep these thoughts in mind as the novel progresses and Vronsky's situation becomes more and more complex. His views on domesticity will change in ways that might surprise you. You meet Anna for the first time in Chapter XVIII. In the first chapter Tolstoy let you know that the prospect of Anna's visit gladdened Stiva because he knew her presence would change things. Indeed it does--every character in the novel is affected. Vronsky is the first major character to see Anna. He goes to the train station to meet his mother, who introduces him to her compartment mate, Anna Karenina. At this point Vronsky's mother likes Anna but this will change. Vronsky is immediately smitten with Anna. He notices immediately an "excess of vitality" that "betrays itself against her will." Anna's inner light shone, "despite of herself in her faint smile." Tolstoy has carefully prepared the entrance of his heroine. You're in suspense because Dolly and Stiva's situation is unresolved; like Stiva, you're expecting Anna to fix things up between them. Perhaps you've been expecting Anna to be practical, perceptive--the perfect go-between. Now that you've met her, you're aware that she's a somewhat mysterious woman of captivating beauty. Are you wondering why she has come to Moscow? It seems she's arriving on short notice; perhaps she's impulsive, perhaps she's running away from something. There's more here than meets the eye--think about it as you watch Anna operate over the course of the novel. Just as you're getting caught up in the bustling atmosphere of the train station and being swept along by Vronsky's sudden passion for Anna, Tolstoy pulls the rug out from under you. There is an accident--the stationmaster has either fallen or thrown himself beneath a train. To impress Anna, Vronsky gives the stationmaster's widow two hundred rubles. To Anna, the accident--and Vronsky's gesture--is a bad omen. NOTE: FORESHADOWING Pay attention to the physical description of Anna in this chapter. Her "excess of vitality" will prove to be integral to her demise. The stationmaster's death functions in two ways. It has immediate dramatic impact because it is unexpected, like a bolt from the blue. The accident immediately casts a pall on Anna and Vronsky's meeting; from the beginning the two have a connection in death. This incident will resonate through the rest of the novel. The stationmaster's death foreshadows Anna's death later on. The old man--or someone very much like him--will haunt Anna in a recurring nightmare that she interprets as foretelling her death. Two interesting character quirks are described: Vronsky seems less than sincere in giving the widow money. (Be on the lookout for other such indications of egotism in Vronsky.) And Stiva tells Anna the family is hoping that Vronsky will marry Kitty. Remember that earlier Stiva had encouraged Levin. After you've gotten to know Stiva better think back to this chapter and try to answer the following questions: Was Stiva lying to Levin? Is he lying now? Or does he always back the most likely winner? Stiva takes Anna to his and Dolly's home. On the way he tells her his troubles. It's understood that she'll help him. Dolly receives Anna in her bedroom, where she is surrounded by her children. Anna's nieces and nephews are drawn to her and she to them. Keep this in mind as the novel progresses: Anna's relationship with children is a sort of weathervane of her mental state. Anna convinces Dolly to forgive Stiva. Here, Anna is a model of canniness and acuity. She guesses accurately what will most touch Dolly and lays it on thick. She waxes eloquent about Stiva's feelings of shame and humiliation (Do you remember any such thing?), and emphasizes that Stiva loves Dolly more than anything in the world. Anna tells Dolly that when Stiva first fell in love with her, he associated her with poetry and high ideals (this may or may not be true). To finish it off, Anna says that if she were in Dolly's place she would forgive and forget Stiva's offense. Notice how brilliantly manipulative Anna can be. Do you admire that trait? Does it make you uneasy? While Dolly and Stiva make up with one another, Anna visits Kitty. Kitty is impressed with Anna, immediately feels close to her and confides in her. Tolstoy created Anna and Kitty as opposites; contrast them as you learn more about each one. Kitty tells Anna about an upcoming ball and her hopes for a romance with Vronsky. Kitty--innocently or naively--would like Anna to be there to share in her happiness. She says she imagines Anna "in lilac." Anna wears black to the ball, a color that points up her sophistication and sensuality. Vronsky all but ignores Kitty and can't take his eyes off Anna. Kitty can see that Anna is exhilarated by her own attractiveness and the effect it has on Vronsky. Kitty decides that there is "something strange, satanic, and enchanting" about Anna. What do you think of this observation? Should Anna, as an older woman, be mindful of the pain she's causing Kitty? NOTE: Although Anna is trying to keep Vronsky at arm's length, Tolstoy's descriptions give her away. Her hair is disarranged, her eyes are sparkling, her voluptuous arms are adorned with bracelets. Tolstoy tells you there is something "terrible and cruel in her charm." What he means is that there is something very sexual in her charm. Tolstoy was ill at ease with blatant sexuality, especially in women. Pay attention to such descriptions--they usually foreshadow trouble. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS XXIV-XXVII These chapters concern Levin, who's extremely depressed over Kitty's rejection. He goes to visit his brother Nicholas. Levin feels heartsick remembering the tumult and outright violence of much of Nicholas' life, because he knows that deep down Nicholas is no worse than any other person. But sickness and poverty have always dogged him, and he has rarely known peace. (Note that Tolstoy uses Levin's interior monologue to tell you about Nicholas and about the brothers' complex relationship.) Levin finds Nicholas very ill and living with Masha, his common-law wife. Levin told Stiva he had a horror of "fallen women," but he's kind to Masha, and sees that she takes good care of Nicholas. Levin is often harsher in his judgments than in his actions. He asks Nicholas and Masha to come stay with him. The next day Levin goes home to the country, vowing to forget his hopes for marriage and never again to let himself be swept away by passion. Levin had to leave Moscow in order to start putting his life back together. Although his hopes for marriage with Kitty are dashed, he shores up other aspects of his life: He gets his farm running well, and he strengthens his relations with Nicholas. The awkwardness that afflicted Levin in the city is gone when he's at home. In what other ways does Levin seem changed? And what is Tolstoy telling you through these changes in Levin? ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS XXVIII-XXXIII These chapters deal with Anna and her husband Karenin. Anna decides abruptly to leave Moscow and return to Saint Petersburg. She confesses to Dolly that she ruined the ball for Kitty. When Dolly makes light of it, Anna insists that she was wrong but then defends herself by saying that it wasn't really her fault. Dolly comments that Anna, in denying blame, spoke the way Stiva would have. What does this tell you? You already know that Stiva lies regularly. Anna herself knows she's lying. She knows she's running away from Vronsky and her attraction to him. On the train home, she's nearly delirious with shame. At a station stop, she gets out for a breath of air. There is a man hammering at the side of the tracks--this hammering will be part of the recurring nightmare that foretells her death. Again Vronsky is part of the scene--he is following her to Moscow against her wishes. When Anna sees her husband at the Saint Petersburg station, her first thought is that his ears stick out in an absurd way. At this point, Anna is not consciously blaming Karenin for her unhappiness. She blames herself for not appreciating her husband's devotion. Try to isolate the turning points in Anna's realization that she must leave Karenin. Nothing yet has really happened between Anna and Vronsky, yet Tolstoy has managed to inject a lot of excitement into each of their brief meetings. One of the ways he does this is by casting an atmosphere of impending doom for Anna and the count. Another is his use of surprise: earlier, neither you nor Vronsky were expecting to see Anna just then; in this chapter, neither Anna nor you were expecting to see Vronsky. Tolstoy also communicates that Anna and Vronsky are obsessed with one another; obsessions generally lead to tragic ends. What else has you on the edge of your seat? Anna has the same sinking feeling upon seeing her son Seriozha. He's not as nice as she remembered him. This is important. It not only tells you that her life pales in comparison to the excitement she felt with Vronsky, but it's the first loosening of her ties with her family. Yet get a glimpse of Karenin's habits. He's extremely busy, and although his wife has been away, he makes no special arrangements to spend time with her. Tolstoy takes pains to tell that there's not a trace of the animation about Anna that was evident in Moscow. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTER XXXIV In this chapter, you see Vronsky in his habitual surroundings. (What a contrast to Karenin!) Vronsky seems ordinary here; like any other young man who is feeling his oats, he is full of youth and good health, and is enjoying a carefree life. It's interesting that Tolstoy should end this part by returning Anna and Vronsky to their normal surroundings. If you go by appearances, everything is just as it always is. What do you think Tolstoy means to accomplish by this? ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: BOOK I, PART II The second part of Anna Karenina is gloomy. Kitty falls ill after being rejected by Vronsky and goes to a German spa to recover. Her ailment is more emotional than physical, and her struggle demands soul-searching rather than medical attention. Anna consummates her love for Vronsky, and the two begin a torrid affair. When Anna confesses to Karenin, she is pregnant with Vronsky's child. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS I-III In these chapters you see how the members of the Shcherbatsky family are, each in their own way, affected, confused, and sometimes hurt by their society's courtship and marriage customs. The family is in a tizzy over Kitty's illness. They summon doctors, each more prominent than the last, to examine her, but none can find anything physically wrong with her. To appease her mother, Kitty pretends to look forward to the trip to the spa recommended by the doctors. Dolly comes to visit, although she has troubles of her own. Stiva is rarely at home, several of her children have scarlet fever, and their finances are shaky. Kitty confides to Dolly that she knows now she really loves Levin. So upset is Kitty that she turns her anger against Dolly, harshly criticizing her for putting up with Stiva. Kitty also says that she resents her parents' trying to marry her off, that when she goes to balls she feels like a piece of meat out for inspection. She says she feels comfortable only with children and goes home with Dolly to take care of her nieces and nephews. NOTE: SOCIAL CHANGE IN RUSSIA At the time Anna Karenina is set, Russian society was on the brink of change. Marriage customs are often a good weathervane for a society--when these customs are in flux, usually other changes are in the wind. For example, at the time of the marriage of the Prince and Princess, all matches were arranged. This meant that young people married those in their parents' social and economic set. With young people freer to make their own choices, marriages between people of different background became possible. You see through the Shcherbatsky family the way in which these changes sometimes confused people. The Princess doesn't know what her role as Kitty's mother is now that Kitty can decide for herself whom to marry. She is torn among wanting to protect her daughter, wanting to show respect for Kitty's judgment, and her attachments to the old ways of doing things. The Prince is suspicious of the newly risen class of merchants. He is old nobility and it bothers him to think that a young person may marry a person of a different class. Kitty is overwhelmed by her first season in society. Dating and balls are new to her, and so are the attentions of young men. Her inexperience kept her from realizing that she loved Levin. If you were in Kitty's place, how would you feel about your mother? Given the conventions of the time, what courses of action would be open to you? Remember, you have the support of your father in this case. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS IV-XI These chapters plunge us into Moscow society. Tolstoy begins by simply describing the three major social circles. The highest, consisting of government officials, is the set to which Karenin belongs. The next is "run" by the Countess Lydia Ivanovna and is made up mostly of rather plain, elderly rich women and ambitious men of a scholarly turn of mind. The third circle is the one that consists of balls, dinner parties, opera excursions, and the like. This glittering set is "led" by the Princess Betsy Tverskaya. All these circles, of course, overlap, and there are rivalries between them. Keep your eye on Princess Betsy; she's a villain. Tolstoy takes this opportunity to make her appear silly. She's at the opera to see a famous soprano, although, as your narrator puts it, she wouldn't know the difference between the diva's voice and that of a chorus girl. She doesn't even stay until the end but goes home to powder her nose before her guests arrive. Conversation in Princess Betsy's drawing room is shallow. No one seems to know what she is talking about, lots of names are dropped, gossip is exchanged, jokes are made at others' expense. Anna and Karenin are for a time the topic of discussion. Some make the observation that Anna is much changed since her visit to Moscow. Everyone knows that she and Vronsky are interested in each other. NOTE: Of course, everyone speaks French at Princess Betsy's. Karenin, upon entering the drawing room, says to his hostess, "Your Hotel Rambouillet is in full muster." Karenin is referring to La Marquise de Rambouillet (1588-1665), the Parisian noblewoman who had the first literary salon. Her gatherings of writers and artists had considerable influence on the cultural scene of the day and established in France the tradition of salons. The last great era for literary salons in Paris was the 1920s and 1930s when Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and other writers, painters, and composers gathered at the homes of such people as the American writer Gertrude Stein. Later in the evening, Anna and Vronsky, having arrived separately, are at Princess Betsy's. Karenin notices his wife talking with the young count and sees nothing wrong in their conduct. But his friends are beginning to talk, and this bothers him. Karenin leaves early to mull over the conversation he would like to have with Anna. But it's hard for him. Never before has he tried to put himself in Anna's place, to imagine what she feels. He honestly believes he has been a model husband. He can't fathom that Anna might love someone else. He decides to explain it to Anna from two points of view. First, he will emphasize the importance of public opinion (the last thing he wants is a scandal); second, he will bring up the religious aspects of marriage. If need be, he decides, he will mention the harm that an extramarital affair would bring to their son; and he will finish by mentioning the unhappiness that such an affair would cause Anna herself. Karenin lays it out clearly and logically. Knowing Anna as you do, do you think she'll be swayed by those arguments? You know Karenin is nervous and unsure, for he cracks his knuckles. What justifications can you find for Karenin's attitude? Do you have sympathy for Karenin at this point? Karenin tries to talk with Anna, but his attempt doesn't go well. Anna pretends that nothing is wrong, but inside she is seething. She believes her husband knows nothing about love. Since her return from Saint Petersburg, Anna's feelings toward her husband have changed. She no longer blames herself; she blames him for her dissatisfactions. What do you think about this? The scene shifts to Anna's "other life." By now, Vronsky has pursued Anna for a year. Finally, they consummate their love, But theirs is no joyful tryst--afterward Anna feels ashamed, and literally falls at Vronsky's feet, begging forgiveness. What a strange reaction, you may well be thinking. Vronsky has wanted Anna ever since he saw her, and now she's apologizing to him. Have you ever felt so guilty about something you did that you felt as though you'd wronged the entire world? Anna feels that way now. For his part, Vronsky feels "like a murderer," that "the body he deprived of life was their love." He feels that "the body must be cut in pieces and hidden away, and he must make use of what he has obtained by the murder." Both realize they have entered a new existence, but neither is able to think clearly about it yet. Tolstoy associates sexual passion with the dark feelings that lead to crimes. Do you think that Anna and Vronsky have done something wrong? ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS XII-XVII These chapters tell you a lot about Levin and his life as the owner of a large country estate. Although several months have passed since his proposal to Kitty, he is still miserable over his rejection. But his farm takes up most of his time and attention and he is satisfied with this diversion. The descriptions of the weather and countryside are lush in these chapters, and are a good indication that Levin spends a lot of his time drinking in the beauty of his surroundings--a far cry from life in the city! You learn that Levin is writing a book on agriculture. It's a revolutionary book because it emphasizes that the laborers are as much a factor in successful farming as climate and soil. This was a topic dear to Tolstoy's heart, and he speaks on it through Levin. NOTE: EMANCIPATION OF THE SERFS Until 1861 the Russian agricultural system was composed of wealthy landowners and serfs. Serfs were essentially slaves; not allowed to own land, they worked their master's land for a small salary. In that time, Russian farms were huge and landowning families depended on their serfs not only for field work but also for various housekeeping tasks. A landowner's heirs inherited his serfs as well as his money and property. After the Czar's emancipation decree freed them, the serfs were allowed to own land and to work for themselves. But because for so many generations they had worked for exceedingly low wages, most serfs hadn't been able to save any money with which to buy land. They continued to work for the estate owners they had always served. But this situation also caused problems, for landowners could no longer get away with paying very low wages. Legally allowed to be ambitious, serfs were now demanding that they be better paid. As a result, they and their former owners would negotiate, sometimes in painful detail, the arrangement between them. For example, should serfs get a percentage of profits? How should serfs who had managed to buy a small plot of land divide their time between their own farming and that for the landowner? The serfs' new freedom had psychological effects as well. Some landowners could not adjust to thinking of former serfs as their equals. Other landowners, who had always regarded their serfs as part of the family, were now hurt at the sudden distance between them. Levin's plan to make the serfs equal partners in his farm infuriated other landowners. It also made some of the serfs suspicious. After all, if that was the way Levin had felt all along, why hadn't he done it sooner, they wondered. You remember that the Oblonskys were having money problems. Their situation has worsened, and Stiva comes to stay with Levin while he sells a forest that Dolly owns. He has made a deal with Ryabinin, a dealer Levin doesn't respect. Ryabinin comes to Levin's home to conclude his transaction with Stiva. Levin is against the deal because Stiva's price is too low, and makes a higher counteroffer. But Stiva has promised Ryabinin and feels it would be dishonorable to go back on his word. This is an important incident. It points up that city people, with little knowledge of respect for the land, contribute to its devaluation. Tolstoy believed that people like Stiva would eventually ruin Russia through such make-money-quick business deals. Stiva tells Levin that Kitty has been ill, that she and Vronsky never got together. He also tells Levin that the princess had been impressed with Vronsky because he was a "perfect aristocrat." (Kitty didn't care about this.) This leads the two men into a discussion on the meaning of aristocracy. Levin says that he worries about the extravagance of urban nobles who consider it beneath their dignity to haggle over prices. He points out that Ryabinin's children may well be better off than Stiva's. Levin goes on to say that, unlike Stiva and the princess, he doesn't consider Vronsky a true aristocrat, because his family, though rich, does not go back very far, and his mother's reputation is questionable. Levin says he considers himself a true nobleman--his family can be traced back many generations, his relatives have always been well educated and independent. Never have they--unlike Stiva and Vronsky--taken government grants and awards and high-level bureaucratic jobs given out largely on the basis of connections. The conversation remains pleasant, although Levin and Stiva disagree on all points raised. NOTE: Tolstoy is clearly talking through Levin. Stiva is part of an urban crowd that is gaining more and more government power, primarily through agencies that Tolstoy thinks harmful. In this conversation, you can see that Levin and Stiva have launched themselves on diverging paths. These paths symbolize what Tolstoy believed were conflicting possibilities for the future of Russia. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS XVII-XXV Two events of great importance happen in these chapters: Anna discovers and tells Vronsky that she is pregnant by him, and Vronsky loses the steeplechase, killing his horse in the process. The first has direct impact on the plot, the second is important thematically and stylistically. For the first time we see Vronsky in his element--with horses. He is very loving with his mare, and calls her "darling." He seems more intuitive with her than with people. This is Vronsky's big day, the day of the steeplechase, which he is expected to win. All he has to do is keep cool. But he's distracted--his mother and brother disapprove of his affair with Anna, and his mother is threatening to cut off his allowance. And Vronsky is growing more and more dissatisfied with the secrecy with which he and Anna must conduct their life together. NOTE: Vronsky's mother worries that he has a "Werther-like passion" for Anna. Werther is the hero of The Sorrows of the Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), one of Germany's most noted writers. Werther commits suicide because the woman he loves is married. When Vronsky goes to see Anna before the race, she tells him she is pregnant. He immediately tells her that she must leave Karenin and live with him. Anna finds she has underestimated Vronsky. She had feared he would take her pregnancy too lightly, but he appears to take it more seriously than even she does. He correctly points out that she suffers from society, her son, and her husband--and that if she doesn't break cleanly with Karenin she is dooming herself to a living hell. But Anna will not listen. Keep an eye on Vronsky--his growth, for a variety of reasons, outstrips Anna's as they go on together. The race itself is a masterpiece of descriptive writing. Tolstoy shows you every detail. He also succeeds in making the scene unbearably exciting. The pacing here is perfect. Distracted by his conversation with Anna, Vronsky is not in top form. An excellent horseman, he runs a fine race. But his mare is nervous, and although he guides her through much of the course with the intimacy of a lover, he makes a fatal mistake. During a jump, he relaxes in the saddle, letting his weight settle, thus breaking her back. This is the worst moment of Vronsky's life so far--his mistake is beyond correction, and was entirely his fault. The death of Frou-Frou foreshadows Vronsky's responsibility for Anna's death. It points up that egotism is a powerful part of his nature--he was overconscious of the crowd during the race. The descriptions of Anna and Frou-Frou are strikingly similar. Both have fine necks and beautiful, expressive eyes; both are submissive to Vronsky's wishes--both ultimately slip from his control. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS XXVI-XXIX Karenin seems out of place at the steeplechase. (He also seems out of his place in his own home. He and Anna talk just enough to keep up appearances. He has turned his anger toward Anna against Seriozha and has little to do with the boy.) Karenin is infuriated that Anna should ignore him at the race in front of a crowd of people. When he scolds her in their carriage on the way home, she shocks him with the news that she loves Vronsky and is his mistress, and that she hates her husband. Karenin tells her he will need time to decide the best way to safeguard his honor. Until then, he tells Anna she must act as though she were a proper wife. What do you think of Karenin's response? Do you believe he is a hypocrite, concerned only for his reputation? He does hurt, so much so that he has tried to turn off his emotions. Do you think Anna really believes that she can carry on as though her husband didn't exist? ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS XXX-XXXV These chapters cover Kitty at the German spa where she has gone to recover her health. You recall that after she turned down Levin's marriage proposal, she became so depressed and anxious that her doctors suggested she go away. NOTE: It was common for wealthy 19th-century Europeans to go yearly to a spa--a country resort built near a mineral spring. The water from the spring was believed to have curative powers. "Taking the waters" became an expression meaning "to go to a spa." While at a spa, guests bathed in and drank mineral water, followed special diets and exercise programs. Vacationing at a spa was a "rest cure" for illness, anxiety, and the hustle-bustle of daily life. Kitty's plan for self-improvement while at the spa backfires in a highly ironic way. She decides to model herself after a girl named Varenka who takes care of ailing elderly people. Kitty admires Varenka's apparent selflessness. Kitty befriends an elderly couple. The husband becomes so fond of her that his wife comes to suspect Kitty's intentions. Kitty thus realizes that she is not at heart a professional do-gooder. She wishes to devote herself to her family and friends, not to strangers. She also realizes that she wants to marry and have children--that Varenka's solitary life, devoid of all sensual pleasure, is not for her. Kitty's realization is her most important step toward maturity. She stops patterning herself after others--Varenka, for example, and her mother's vision of a socially accomplished young noblewoman--and comes to terms with what she herself wants. Kitty is a heroine in Tolstoy's eyes. She goes through the difficult process of getting to know herself; her struggle may not be as philosophical and torturous as Levin's, but she does suffer, and she doesn't give up until she has achieved true clarity. Tolstoy also considers Kitty a heroine because she wants above all to devote herself to her husband and children. Kitty doesn't back into this choice; she fights for it. Some readers feel that Kitty, because she is the quintessential wife and mother, is not a modern "liberated" woman. But keep in mind that Kitty has the grit to hold out for what she wants, and that is a form of liberation. By ending Part II with Kitty's illumination, Tolstoy sharpens the suspense. Surely Kitty's newly won maturity will bear on the plot of the novel. Tolstoy gives you a hint of what will happen by starting Part III with Levin. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: BOOK I, PART III In Part III, both Levin and Vronsky are frustrated by the feeling that their lives seem suspended, that they are "spinning their wheels." Levin pours his energies into his estate, into establishing a cooperative land arrangement with the peasants who work for him. But he knows deep down that his life is incomplete without Kitty. He also comes to know that he has been trying to bury himself in work in order to banish from his mind thoughts of his dying brother--and death itself. Vronsky is agitated because Anna has not left Karenin. He is weary of their "secret life" and aches for a change. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS I-III You remember that when Levin came to Moscow to propose to Kitty he stayed with his half-brother Sergey. They argued then about politics (specifically the zemstvos, or local councils) and other intellectual matters. This time Sergey comes to visit Levin at his estate. As always, the two spend most of their time in friendly argument. These chapters are interesting, particularly for what they show you about Levin's intellectual and spiritual development. You might contrast the ways in which Kitty and Levin struggle toward self-knowledge. Conversations between Levin and Sergey center on the peasants. Sergey, a city dweller, has a rather romanticized view of them, and when he talks it often seems that he likes peasants more than Levin does. This irks Levin--he thinks Sergey is talking through his hat, since he has never worked with peasants. Lately, Levin has been struck that Sergey's strictly intellectual approach to things is dry, lacking "heart." Levin has spent much of his time studying and has always felt a frustration at his apparent inability to find the answers for which he was searching. Levin is beginning to realize that for him the path to knowledge cannot be just an intellectual path. Levin also resents Sergey's poetic descriptions of the countryside. To Levin, they only indicate how little Sergey understands nature. He seems naive about the inherent fierceness in nature, its kill-or-be-killed aspects, its awesome fertility. Levin has the impression that, to Sergey, nature is little more than a pretty scene. Levin and Sergey's final argument has to do with the zemstvo. You recall that earlier Sergey was disappointed that Levin had stopped participating in the council. To Sergey the zemstvos represent the noblemen helping the peasants out of pure goodness, with no thought for themselves. Levin takes the line that no good can come of actions that are not based on self-interest. Sergey is horrified at the apparent selfishness in this comment, and to contradict Levin brings up the emancipation of the serfs as an example of the nobility helping the peasants with no thought of gain. Levin has a different view: He believes that the emancipation helped everyone--that the serfs' bondage was a "yoke" oppressing peasants and noblemen alike. To Sergey, the emancipation was an act of charity; to Levin, it was the (tardy) execution of justice. NOTE: ON RURAL LIFE AND BOOK LEARNING Tolstoy works two themes into the conversations between Levin and Sergey: the relation between peasants and nobles; and the role of book learning in one's development. Remember that Russia had always been a country with a strict class system. Tolstoy believes that the aristocrats have a responsibility to use their wealth and property in ways that will benefit not only themselves, but Russia as a whole. Because Tolstoy believes that serfdom--in which one person essentially owns others--is wrong, he feels that the nobles had to give it up. In this way, they purify their own lives as well as the general atmosphere of Russia. Obviously, Tolstoy makes these points through Levin. Sergey's book learning is impressive, but he can't back up his political theories with personal experience. He loves the idea of serving on a zemstvo, but he's never done it and so is ignorant of the practicalities (and hassles) involved. Sergey loves the idea of nature, but he would never go out and work in the fields. He loves the idea of men working the land, but he's never smelled the stench of their--or his own--sweat, nor has he a gut feeling for the satisfaction you can get from growing your own food. Notice that Levin, in emphasizing the importance of personal experience, shares Kitty's perspective. Perhaps little by little the two are working their way toward one another. Do you think that both Levin and Sergey are sincere? Whose opinion do you think is more trustworthy? Why? Have you ever had to change your mind about something--a sport, politics, or falling in love--because the reality differed markedly from the expectations you had derived from reading about these experiences beforehand? ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS IV-VI This is the famous mowing scene, one of Tolstoy's greatest set pieces. You probably remember that a set piece is a very theatrical scene presented in minute detail. In the mowing scene you come to understand Levin's complex and rich relationship with his land and the peasants who work for him. Levin not only works with the peasants side by side, but he learns from them, admires their stamina, skill, and natural grace. You can read the mowing scene as expressing everything Levin had wished to say to Sergey but couldn't, because to articulate his feelings would have been to intellectualize them, to rob them of "heart." Sergey has a driving need to describe, Levin to experience. Although Sergey may appear better able to share his thoughts and feelings with others, this doesn't mean his thoughts are any deeper than Levin's. Levin (and Tolstoy) would have you believe they are more shallow. Savor the mowing scene. It has some of the most wonderfully descriptive language to be found in any of Tolstoy's work. And it's a rare sort of scene, for it's an unusual writer who really knows how to mow a field. And a rarer one still who can make his readers yearn to scythe as well. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS VII-XI The Oblonskys' financial picture is still bleak. To cut down on expenses and to get a rest from the city, Dolly and her children move to her family's estate, which is located near Levin's. Like many of Tolstoy's characters, Dolly regains her equilibrium in the country. Her husband's infidelities bruise her less there, and she finds increased happiness with her children. Dolly tells Levin that Kitty will be coming for a visit. Levin says that he will not come to call, that he's tried and will continue to try to forget Kitty. But one evening he's out walking and sees a carriage coming his way. He peers inside as it passes, and his eyes meet Kitty's. He realizes that he loves her and always will. Again Tolstoy has pulled a fast one. He uses abrupt changes for two reasons: They make the plot more exciting, and they reinforce his theme that our truest perceptions come from our feelings rather than our brain. Levin doesn't have time to intellectualize a denial of his love for Kitty; as soon as he sees her, feelings of love spontaneously wash over him. Tolstoy "ripens" Levin for this realization. Before he sees Kitty's carriage, Tolstoy has Levin meet a young peasant couple, newly married and very much in love. They are working together in a field, and to Levin they represent the harmony he hungers for. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS XII-XXIII From a vision of harmony, Tolstoy plunges you into the tense triangle made up of Anna, Karenin, and Vronsky. Karenin considers challenging Vronsky to a duel but finally decides against it. He then considers divorcing Anna but decides against that, too, since by Russian law he would have to present proof of her affair, which would certainly cause a scandal. Karenin decides that the best thing is for him to insist that his and Anna's life continue outwardly as though nothing were wrong. In this way, he reasons, his honor will be saved, he won't have the headaches of a divorce, and--not least--Anna will suffer. Anna, he believes, must suffer, for in his eyes she alone is guilty. Karenin puts his plan into action by sending Anna money, with a proper but cold note. He then buries himself in his work. Anna, who is staying at their summer home and receiving visits from Karenin on weekends, realizes with a start that she too is horrified at the prospect of public disgrace. By staying married to Karenin maybe she can avoid a scandal and continue her affair with Vronsky. She seeks advice from Princess Betsy, who counsels her to perfect her arts of deception. Anna realizes that she feels comfortable in Princess Betsy's drawing room, that the buzz of society gossip calms her. Take note that Anna seeks help from a character Tolstoy has let you know is a villain. This not only lets you know what Tolstoy thinks of Anna's behavior, but might be a clue as to what eventually will happen to Anna. Vronsky has his frustrations, too. He dislikes situations that are unclear, and Anna's apparent inability to leave Karenin makes him very uncomfortable. Another unresolved aspect of his life is his career. He is by nature ambitious, and he is not progressing as quickly as he had expected. He meets an old school friend whose career is going along brilliantly. Vronsky takes special note when his friend tells him that women are the chief stumbling blocks in a man's career. Vronsky worries that he might be ruining his chances for success by hanging on to a love that is doomed. Karenin, Anna, and Vronsky are all trying to act in their own self-interest. How different their understanding of this is than Levin's. Tolstoy is drawing a line between selfishness and self-interest. How would you differentiate between the two? Think back to Levin's discussion with Sergey on the emancipation of the serfs. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS XXIV-XXXII These chapters, though not especially action-packed, are nonetheless exciting, for they let you see the manner in which Levin's thoughts--on life and on his part in life--begin to crystallize with startling speed. He goes to visit his friend, Sviazhsky, who lives a considerable distance away. En route, he stops to feed his horses at the home of a wealthy peasant family. Levin talks with the head of the family and learns that he is in the practice of renting land to other peasants and taking a percentage of their crop yield. His conversation with the old man haunts him during his trip. Can you guess why? Review what you already know about Levin's project to revolutionize farming. Levin is nervous about seeing Sviazhsky and his wife, for he knows that they would like him to marry the wife's younger sister. At dinner, the young woman is wearing a low-cut dress, probably to capture Levin's attention. Levin is distracted, made miserable by the sight of the woman's plunging neckline. This points up his (and Tolstoy's) discomfort with sensuality unless it is in the context of marriage. Levin excuses himself from the ladies and joins the men for a discussion on farming methods. Everyone has complaints. Sviazhsky considers Russia a doomed country. The nobility, he asserts, really favors serfdom, which he sees as a fatal flaw in the Russian social make-up. He says that every year he shows a loss because, even after emancipation, the peasants don't feel they have enough stake in the system to work hard. Another man--an old-fashioned type of landlord--believes the serfs were better off before emancipation. He says they are too ignorant to be able to fend for themselves. Levin responds by arguing that the solution is to cure not their ignorance first but their poverty. He concludes that the only way to do this is to share all profits equally with the peasants--thereby giving them a vested interest. As a result, he says, everyone's income will increase. Levin realizes that what bothered him about the old peasant's practice of renting land to other peasants is that it is too similar to the way things were done in the past--it's still a landlord-tenant relationship. Levin wants a full partnership with the people who work for him. He vows to start this new system on his estate that very season. He goes home and begins working feverishly. NOTE: In the late 1840s (the emancipation happened in 1861), Tolstoy tried to make the peasants at Yasnaya Polyana his partners by selling them bits of land. Although the peasants liked Tolstoy personally, they couldn't understand why a landlord would do such a thing. Crestfallen at his failure, Tolstoy returned to Moscow and spent 1848-1850 there. But after emancipation, Tolstoy made it work. Levin's life as an estate proprietor is based on Tolstoy's experience as a landlord. Nicholas arrives unexpectedly, saying that his health is much improved. Clearly, though, he is worse--he is dying. Levin realizes with a jolt that his discomfort with Nicholas has stemmed from the fact that for a long time now he had associated Nicholas with death. Levin is terribly depressed. He takes comfort in the thought that maybe his work--if it's good enough to live on after him--will, in a sense, save him from death. It will pay to read these chapters a second time. Anna Karenina is not only about the lives of the characters--it is about Tolstoy's view of, and vision for, Russia. Levin is his spokesman. You see, through Levin, Tolstoy's own development--his intellectual false starts, crash landings, and final soaring. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: BOOK I, PART IV The events in Part IV--the last part in Book I--mark a turning point in the novel. After giving birth to Vronsky's daughter, Anna becomes gravely ill. Karenin forgives her on what he believes to be her deathbed. When she recovers, however, he realizes that Anna despises him, and consents to a divorce. Anna refuses the divorce because she doesn't want to give up her son, but goes to live abroad with Vronsky. Kitty and Levin become engaged. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS I-XVI Anna and Karenin live together as though nothing were wrong. Of course, Anna continues to see Vronsky, and Karenin knows it. His one condition is that Vronsky never come to their house. One night, however, Anna begs Vronsky to come while Karenin is to be at a meeting. Karenin comes home unexpectedly, meets Vronsky on his doorstep, and bows to him politely. But beneath his polite exterior, he is boiling mad. Karenin tells Anna he plans to divorce her and to arrange for Seriozha to be raised by his aunt. Soon after, Anna tells Vronsky she has had a dream that told her she will soon die. It is the dream in which a small peasant fumbles in a sack, muttering, near railway tracks. This dream will recur throughout the rest of the novel. Why do you think Anna first has the dream after Karenin tells her they will divorce? What does divorce mean to Anna, and why does she--even subconsciously--connect it to her death? You might think back to the epigraph, and Tolstoy's insistence that "the bitter things come from God." Has Anna set in motion her own destruction by transgressing God's commandments? You may not be able to answer at this point in the book, but keep the question in mind as you read. The Oblonskys' finances are as shaky as ever, but Stiva still entertains his friends at restaurants and gives parties at his home. At one of his get-togethers, Levin, who happens to be in town, unexpectedly meets Kitty. He recognizes that she loves him by the look in her eyes. He proposes to her, using secret signals that only she understands. Kitty and Levin are able to come together not because one makes a declaration to the other, but because, as soon as they see each other, they communicate their feelings by their expressions, postures, and so forth. They relate to one another intuitively. Contrast this harmony between Levin and Kitty with the ways in which words often bring Anna to cross purposes with Vronsky as well as with Karenin. Also contrast Anna's indecision--her inability to create a clear situation for herself with either Vronsky or Karenin--with Levin's clarity of feeling and decisive action with Kitty. Levin asks formally for Kitty's hand, although the young woman has already accepted him. The prince and princess are both delighted. Take note that Kitty has brought her mother around to her point of view on Levin. Levin feels he must ask Kitty's forgiveness for the fact that he is not a virgin. He gives her his diary, which recounts certain episodes of his youth. She reads it and is horrified, but in the end forgives him. NOTE: Tolstoy places those women who seem cut out by nature to be wives and mothers on a higher moral plane than other women, to whom such roles in life might seem burdensome. Levin's investing Kitty with the power to forgive and absolve drives home Tolstoy's point. The gesture also serves to underscore that marriage must be sanctified, that one must prepare and cleanse oneself for it. What do you think of Levin's confession to Kitty? Is this something you would wish to do? Would you expect this of your prospective husband or wife? Do you think Kitty should have refused to read the diaries? ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS XVII-XXIII Smarting over Anna's betrayal, Karenin thinks about the Christian principle of forgiveness. But it's hard for him. Just as earlier in the novel Anna had advised Dolly to forgive Stiva, so now Dolly counsels Karenin to forgive Anna. Karenin receives a telegram from Anna telling him she is dying and asking him to come to her. He doesn't believe it--she has lied to him so many times--but he can't help but think that her death would solve all his problems. When he arrives, Anna, despite having given birth safely to a daughter, is delirious with fever. She begs Karenin to forgive her affair with Vronsky and begs him to forgive Vronsky as well. Karenin does. Now Anna feels ready to die, and wishes for death. Vronsky, humiliated before Karenin and desperate at the thought of Anna's death, attempts to commit suicide. He shoots himself after he has gone back to his room, but before he bleeds to death his servant finds him and summons help. Karenin is surprised at the tenderness and compassion he found within himself--he even feels affection for Anna and Vronsky's daughter and vows to raise her himself after Anna's death. He knows inward peace for the first time in his life. To Karenin's astonishment, however, Anna begins to recover. His feelings toward her change. He realizes that Anna fears rather than loves him. He receives an unexpected jolt when he learns from Princess Betsy that Vronsky is leaving for a job in the provinces and that Anna wishes to see him before he leaves. Karenin is back in his old predicament. He wants to act so that others will have no cause to condemn him, but the thought of permitting Anna to resume her affair with Vronsky makes his blood boil. NOTE: APPEARANCES CAN BE DECEIVING From a dramatic point of view, Tolstoy uses the birth of Anna's child and Anna's subsequent illness in a highly ironic way. Karenin's kindness and Anna's contrition lead you to believe that the two will reconcile. This is supported by the fact that Vronsky plays a very small role in the deathbed scene. You've seen Tolstoy do this before. Just when you think you know what will happen next, Tolstoy pulls a switch. This technique keeps you on your toes, but that's not the only reason Tolstoy uses it. He believes that appearances are often deceiving. Anna is a perfect case in point: Just before she began a torrid love affair with Vronsky, she was the picture of the proper, faithful wife of a prominent gentleman. On the basis of Anna's past actions and words, no one had any reason to suspect that she would suddenly (or ever) leave her family. Princess Betsy, a woman who loves intrigue, takes upon herself the role of go-between. After telling Karenin about Vronsky's plans, she goes to see Stiva, telling him that Karenin will be the death of Anna. Stiva, concerned for his beloved sister, begs Karenin to give her a divorce. Deeply upset, Karenin finally agrees. Princess Betsy goes to Vronsky to tell him the news. Vronsky immediately visits Anna, who tells him she belongs to him. They decide to go to Italy to live together. Vronsky gives up the promising job he was offered, and Anna refuses Karenin's offer of divorce because he refused to grant her custody of Seriozha. The lovers leave, but many matters are still undecided. Many readers believe the deathbed scene to be the most critical scene in the novel. Tolstoy is telling you that the nearness of death brings out the best in people. Anna no longer wants to be deceitful, Karenin is forgiving, Vronsky feels shame. Anna's returning health, however, complicates things. Anna goes back to Vronsky, Karenin again feels a thirst for vengeance, and Vronsky devotes himself to a desperate love rather than to a clear-cut, comparatively wholesome life. At Anna's deathbed, they all seem to exist in a suspended moment. But this is not how life works, and perhaps our true desires can only be recognized in the crush of everyday life. Do you think we recognize what we really hope for and aspire to in times of crisis? ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: BOOK II, PART V A lot happens in Part V. Kitty and Levin marry in another of Tolstoy's famous set pieces. They have a rocky adjustment to married life. Nicholas dies just before the newlyweds learn that Kitty is pregnant. Anna and Vronsky are also adjusting to life together. (From here on, you'll want to compare and contrast the relationships between Kitty and Levin, and Anna and Vronsky. Remember that Anna Karenina is as much a novel about domestic relations as anything else.) Anna misses her son terribly and one morning, when she can't stand being apart from Seriozha another day, she sneaks into his nursery. Desperately lonely--all her former friends snub her now that she's "living in sin" with Vronsky--she goes to the opera, causing a scandal. Anna has a hard time keeping her head together in the face of so much rejection, and begins to blame Vronsky for her unhappiness. For his part, Vronsky is displeased that she would flaunt herself in society. Anna and Vronsky are discovering some difficulties between them that will ultimately prove their undoing. They go to the country to "get away from it all" and for a while are distracted from the tensions festering between them. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS I-VI These chapters deal primarily with Kitty and Levin. Levin realizes that Kitty doesn't understand the particulars of his book on farming, nor does she care to. Only knowing that it's important to Levin makes it important to her. Notice that Kitty doesn't wish to share in her husband's work the way Anna would wish to share in Vronsky's. Kitty has a clear idea of what her own work is--to care for her husband and the children she will have with him. Stiva tells Levin that in order to be married he will need a certificate of confession. It's been years since Levin made confession. He doesn't believe in the ritual of confession and communion; in fact, he doesn't really believe in God. But he goes to see the priest anyway, and confesses that his chief sin is doubt. The priest asks him how he can doubt the existence of God when he looks every day on God's creation. He asks Levin how he will answer his children's questions about death, birth, evil, goodness. Levin realizes that the priest is raising some valid points. But he knows that, at present, he still does not believe in God. Nonetheless, deep within him, he feels as though a voice were telling him to have patience, that faith will come. It is Kitty's love that helps prepare Levin for the possibility he might find faith. Levin's spiritual search is a long and hard one, and he is still closer to its beginning than to its culmination. Chapters II-VI are devoted to Kitty and Levin's wedding. Tolstoy describes the hours preceding the ceremony and the ritual itself in painstaking detail. He does this not only for dramatic purposes--a wedding is a highly theatrical event--but to emphasize that Kitty and Levin will live a traditionally Russian and harmonious life. Tolstoy cuts back and forth between the wedding guests and the couple, splicing--as though this were a film--gossip, criticism of Kitty's appearance, and small talk from the crowd with phrases from the marriage vows, prayers, and bits of Levin's running interior monologue. This technique underscores that weddings are seminal events for society--that a wedding is a grand occasion with importance for all who take part in it. It also emphasizes that Kitty and Levin--because they are fully conscious of marriage as a sacrament--are apart from those who participate in the wedding as if it were merely a big party. Kitty's joy--pure, radiant with appreciation for the momentousness of the event--infects everyone, bringing unity (however brief) to all who are there. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS VII-XIII Tolstoy immediately contrasts Kitty and Levin with Anna and Vronsky. You go directly from the wedding scene to Italy, where Anna and Vronsky have been living together for three months. Anna feels "unpardonably happy" in her life with Vronsky. She feels that she should be suffering, especially since she has left her son behind and ruined her reputation, but she can't make herself feel unhappy. But Vronsky--though loving and attentive--begins to feel bored. He gave up his career for Anna and really has nothing to do. He takes up painting, working in traditional styles, and shows considerable skill. They go to visit a Russian painter named Mikhaylov, who lives nearby. They are impressed with the old man's work and Vronsky commissions him to do a portrait of Anna. Vronsky gives up painting after admitting to himself that he hasn't anywhere near the talent of the old Russian, let alone the Old Masters. Now he becomes really frustrated and grows increasingly restless. NOTE: THE CREATIVE PROCESS The chapters dealing with Mikhaylov, the Russian painter, don't have much to do with the plot of Anna Karenina, but they are nonetheless interesting. You see the contrasting ways in which an artist and nonartist see the creative process. Anna, Vronsky, and their friend Golenishchev--intellectuals--visit the painter at his studio. They are immediately put off by his appearance: His clothes are badly out of fashion, and his manner is rough. By this detail, Tolstoy tells you that the artist is usually out of step with the fashionable world, that the making of art is not a tidy, genteel activity. The artist and his visitors have conflicting feelings about each other. Mikhaylov feels some scorn for Golenishchev, Vronsky, and Anna because he suspects they don't know much about art but believe they do because they know which artists are in vogue and which are not. Yet he wants them to say something intelligent about his work, something that will convince him that they do understand. Why? Because as an artist, Mikhaylov desperately wants his work to communicate. Golenishchev, Vronsky, and Anna talk about technique as though it were all-important. To Mikhaylov, technique is secondary to the making of art. For Mikhaylov, what counts most is inspiration and the artist's faithfulness to his own vision. Tolstoy is talking through Mikhaylov. Notice that Anna is content to bury herself in a sort of never-never land of romance, while Vronsky feels an increasing discomfort at living removed from his own society. Why is romance alone not enough to override these shortcomings in Vronsky's life? If you were in Anna's place, would you be completely satisfied with your life? If not, why not? ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS XIV-XX These are important chapters. Levin must finally confront what haunts him when Nicholas dies--his horror of death. Kitty and Levin's first several months of marriage find them quarreling a lot, much to their surprise. Their fights are productive, though, for after each one they understand each other better and feel closer than before. Just when things are beginning to settle down between them, the two receive a telegram from Masha, saying that Nicholas is dying. Levin is astonished when Kitty insists on going with him to Moscow. Levin is upset--to the point of inaction--by the seediness of Nicholas's hotel, by his brother's suffering and nearness to death, and by the presence of Masha, a "fallen woman." But Kitty knows instinctively what to do. She has Nicholas moved to a better room, has it cleaned, puts fresh linen on the bed, washes and changes Nicholas, and convinces him to take extreme unction. To Levin's surprise, Kitty and Masha get along well. You see clearly the contrast between Levin and Kitty--or, as Tolstoy would have you understand it, between the intellectual and intuitive approach to life. Levin tries intellectually to come to terms with death and suffering. That is why he fails. Kitty--Tolstoy's consummate wife and mother in this novel--has an intuitive understanding that birth and death are part of the same cycle, that both have their particular significance. Levin sees that he must try to learn from Kitty. He realizes that love--not work, as he had previously thought--will keep him from despair. Nicholas dies an agonizing death in Chapter XX, the only chapter in Anna Karenina to have a title ("Death"). Soon afterward, Levin learns that Kitty is pregnant. The timing of these two events underscores Tolstoy's theme that death and birth are united, and that a person must come to terms with both. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS XXI-XXX You remember that Karenin had decided that the best way for him to handle his life was to continue his normal routine as much as possible. But the routine doesn't make him feel any better about things. He is completely lost; his life makes no sense to him. He can't understand how he can still love Anna, feel tenderness for her and Vronsky's daughter, do his best (with his limited emotional resources) to raise his son--and still be ridiculed by many in society. He's easy prey for Lydia Ivanovna, a society lady given to impulsive love affairs and religious faddism. She arrives at Karenin's home and announces that she will run his house and advise him on all personal matters. Though Karenin had previously had contempt for Lydia Ivanovna, he feels so desperate that he is comforted by her attention. The first thing the woman does to set Karenin's house in order is to tell Seriozha that his mother is dead. From here on, Lydia will do everything in her power to hurt Anna, and to make Karenin fall in love with herself. Others in society are also trying to destroy Anna. Princess Betsy, pretending to offer friendly advice, tells Vronsky that he shouldn't be seen with Anna, a "fallen woman," while they are in Saint Petersburg. She talks to Vronsky in honeyed tones, appealing to his insecurities about his career and chances for success. Princess Betsy also visits Anna, under the guise of friendship. She tells Anna that she herself, of course, is very liberal and is not bothered by Anna and Vronsky's living together, but that others are not so open-minded. She does this just so she can see the effect of her painful words on Anna. Anna's reaction is to rebel even further. She sneaks into Karenin's house in order to see Seriozha. The visit completely unnerves her, especially when she realizes the boy had been told she was dead. When she goes back home, she can no longer feel love for her daughter, and never will again. In her mind, her daughter has deprived her of Seriozha, and she resents her for it. Hysterical beneath a relatively calm exterior, Anna starts acting in a way that Vronsky considers reckless. He has been influenced by Princess Betsy's talk and wants them to keep a low profile in Saint Petersburg. Anna, however, announces that she is going to the opera that evening; Vronsky can barely contain his horror. Vronsky also goes to the opera, but sits apart from Anna. He feels angry that she is so beautiful--her loveliness, he can't help thinking, is what got him into this mess in the first place. Anna's presence at the opera does, in fact, cause a scandal. The people in the next box leave rather than sit next to a "sinful woman." Anna and Vronsky fight at home after the opera. Anna blames Vronsky for leaving her alone too much. They make a tentative peace and leave the next day for the country. Vronsky shows himself to resemble Karenin in his concern about the opinion of others. Anna again finds that she is with a man who is unable to think and act independently. Tolstoy shows urban society at its most hypocritical. Most of the people who now scorn Anna are themselves adulterers. But they do it secretly, playing by "the rules." Who do you think is more dishonorable--Anna or those that condemn her? Anna's mind starts to slip in these chapters. She fantasizes that Vronsky no longer loves her, and begins acting as though her fantasy were true. More and more, Anna will be unable to tell the difference between what she imagines and what really is happening. As you read, try to pinpoint the events and circumstances that drive Anna mad. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: BOOK II, PART VI In this part, Tolstoy shows in high relief the differences in the lives of his three principal female characters. The Levins' quiet life in the country is interrupted by visitors from the city. Not only does Levin's work suffer, but he finds himself jealous of the attention one of the guests shows to Kitty. Dolly goes to visit Anna and realizes that though her own life is far from perfect, she wouldn't want to be in Anna's shoes. Anna, resisting the role of wife and uncomfortable with that of mistress, is increasingly in need of Vronsky's undivided attention. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS I-VII The Levins' house is filled with summer guests, among them Koznyshev and Varenka, a pretty young woman. Koznyshev you learn, had a fiancee who died before they could marry. Since then, he has remained true to her. But he's lonely and attracted to Varenka. Just as he is about to propose, though, he backs down, to the chagrin of both of them. NOTE: INTELLECTUALS AND MARRIAGE Again Tolstoy expresses a theme through a particular character, Tolstoy is emphasizing that the only way a man can be truly happy is to be happily married. Koznyshev, an intellectual, is faithful more to a principle than to his young fiancee, who, of course, is no more. It is the idea of his faithfulness that he can't give up--his life with her was ended, after all. He prefers to be miserable but true to his idea than to change and be happier. Notice how Tolstoy takes a seemingly unimportant, though diverting, scene involving minor characters, some of whom appear only once, and uses it to make a thematic statement. In this way, Tolstoy expresses his themes in various contexts and from several different angles (Sergey is one type of unfulfilled intellectual, Koznyshev is another). An advantage to the epic form is that it gives authors lots of room: they can explore the many ramifications of a given theme without seeming to hammer away at it. The epic also allows authors to change scenes and bring in new characters, to keep the story lively as well as to deepen the treatment of their themes. Stiva arrives with a friend named Veslovsky. Levin is offended that Veslovsky flirts with Kitty. Later Veslovsky will visit Vronsky and Anna, and flirt with Anna. The two women respond differently to Veslovsky's attentions, and so do Levin and Vronsky. You'll want to compare and contrast the two couples and their reactions to an intrusive third party. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS VIII-XV These chapters comprise another set piece. Levin, Stiva, and Veslovsky go hunting. Levin is annoyed by the two city gentlemen who have little appreciation for the land and the peasants. They stop for the night at a peasant's home. Stiva and Veslovsky each go to bed with a peasant girl. Levin sleeps alone, furious with his companions. He comes around to thinking that he really has no right to judge others, as long as they don't prevent him from living as he chooses. By the end of the trip, the three are back on friendly terms. But when they get back to Levin's estate, Veslovsky again flirts with Kitty, whereupon Levin tells him to leave. Levin's family considers his gesture extreme. But Levin doesn't care, he has what he wants--peace and quiet. There's something else. Levin regards Kitty as exalted, as practically sacred because she is pregnant. To him Veslovsky is "the worm in the Garden of Eden," and he won't have his home contaminated. What do you think of Levin's conduct here? Remember, Levin is struggling to achieve greater clarity in his life. Levin's gesture can be seen either as heroic--in that he makes a clear statement on his moral standards--or a little paranoid. What do you think? ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS XVI-XXV The main purpose of this chapter is the contrast between Anna and Dolly. Dolly goes to see Anna where she is living with Vronsky. Dolly is nervous because she looks shabby, although she's wearing her best dress. Anna, as always, looks beautiful and is glad to see Dolly, but somehow they have trouble talking. Dolly feels sad to realize that Vronsky has a lot of activities--a stud farm, a hospital he has built for his peasants, a park--that Anna doesn't share. It seems her job is always to look stunning--she changes clothes several times a day. Anna doesn't even plan menus or oversee the house servants; Vronsky does that. Anna, it seems to Dolly, is a guest in Vronsky's home rather than a full-fledged companion. Vronsky takes Dolly aside and asks her to convince Anna to get a divorce. He would like to have more children with Anna and knows that they would legally be considered bastards unless he and Anna marry. Veslovsky, the man Levin threw out of his house, comes for dinner. Dolly is shocked to see Anna flirting with him. Vronsky, unlike Levin, isn't the least bit upset. In fact, he seems flattered that another man would notice Anna's charms. As they prepare for bed, Anna comes in to talk with Dolly. Dolly prevails upon Anna to get a divorce from Karenin. Anna's reply shocks her. Anna says that she does not want to have more children--that she practices birth control (highly unusual for those times). She tells Dolly that she knows if she isn't eternally alluring to Vronsky he will leave her. To become pregnant, to be burdened with the tasks of child rearing, would, she fears, take away from her sexual attractiveness. She feels insecure because she's not married to Vronsky, but she's afraid of being like Dolly. Vronsky has said that Dolly is "nice, but terre a terre," which means that she's too down to earth. Either way, Anna fears losing Vronsky, and so tries to stay between the two roles. After Dolly leaves, you get another look at Anna and Vronsky's life together. Anna is bored. To occupy herself, she reads voraciously, trying to keep up on subjects of interest to Vronsky. Vronsky feels increasingly confined in their life. He has become active politically and spends a lot of time away from Anna at meetings. They fight frequently about this. Anna is nearly out of her mind with loneliness. Vronsky resolves he will give Anna anything she wants except his "freedom as a man." NOTE: LOVE AND ROMANCE Tolstoy condemns Anna not because she lives unconventionally, but because her refusal to have children means she has turned her back on her rightful place in the life cycle. Tolstoy believes that the purpose of love is to beget children. Romance can exist within love--look at Kitty and Levin--but love can't flower within a strictly romantic relationship. Anna yearns for love but will neither give up the trappings of romance nor accept love's obligations. You may notice that there is a lot of French in this section. This is one way in which Tolstoy lets you know that he disapproves of Anna and Vronsky's set-up. Remember, speaking French was a habit among upper-class Russians who wished to act "cultivated." What do you think of Tolstoy's definition of love and the distinction he draws between love and romance? What do you think of Vronsky's attitude? Anna is trapped. What do you think Anna could do in order to free herself? Dolly goes home feeling that her own life has integrity. It may be hard for readers in this day and age to accept Tolstoy's solution for Dolly. Many readers find that Dolly is too long-suffering, has borne too much humiliation, to be an admirable female character. But bear in mind that Tolstoy's point is not that women should suffer (and he makes clear that Stiva is far from an ideal husband); his point is that a woman's chief responsibility, and joy, is to have children. Dolly's life isn't perfect, but she does find happiness in it. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS XXVI-XXXII Anna and Vronsky and Kitty and Levin are again contrasted in these chapters. Both couples are separated--the women are at home, the men are at an election conference. Vronsky's frequent separations from Anna have her feeling so desperate she takes morphine every night in order to sleep. Kitty is with her family in Moscow, peacefully awaiting the birth of her child. Levin and Vronsky find themselves opposed on most of the issues raised at the conference. Vronsky represents a new breed of farmer, one who doesn't shy away from modern methods, who doesn't see any harm in industrializing farming. Though Vronsky doesn't mistreat his peasants, it doesn't occur to him to make them equal partners. Levin doesn't want to see farming become an industry. He holds more than ever to his plan to forge a partnership with the peasants. In the midst of the meeting, Vronsky receives a note from Anna saying that their daughter is very ill. He returns home, finding that the baby was never as seriously ill as Anna tried to make him believe. Vronsky is furious that she would try to manipulate him so crudely. Anna feels so desperately insecure that she writes to Karenin asking for a divorce on any terms. Then she and Vronsky move to Moscow and set up housekeeping like a married couple, expecting any day to receive news from Karenin that a divorce is under way. Both couples are anticipating major changes: Kitty and Levin are preparing to become parents; Anna and Vronsky to become married. Again on a note of suspense, Tolstoy closes a Part of the novel. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: BOOK II, PART VII Many readers find this the most exciting part of Anna Karenina. Kitty gives birth. Karenin has a "religious conversion," falls under the sway of a fake clairvoyant (a friend of Lydia Ivanovna), and refuses to divorce Anna. Anna commits suicide. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS I-XII By now the Levins have been in Moscow two months waiting for Kitty to give birth. Levin, although he doesn't particularly like city life and is worried that things are very expensive, is much more at ease in town than ever before. The "rough edges" in his character that earlier caused him to throw Veslovsky out of his house seem to have been smoothed. He renews acquaintances with some of his college friends, and enjoys talking with them about his ideas on agriculture. One night while at his father-in-law's club, Levin is introduced by Stiva to Vronsky. The two men find that they rather like each other and are both glad that the unspoken feud between them is over. Vronsky even invites Levin to his home. Kitty, too, meets Vronsky by chance while out walking with her father. Like her husband, she feels none of the hostility toward him she felt in the past. Both Kitty and Levin are learning to put their pasts behind them. Levin goes with Stiva to Anna and Vronsky's home. Anna beguiles Levin with her charm, intelligence, and wit. But she startles him when, as he's leaving, she asks him to give her regards to Kitty, saying, "If she cannot forgive me my situation, I wish her never to forgive me. To forgive, she would have to live through what I have lived through, and may God preserve her from that!" The scene between Anna and Levin is complex. They are drawn to each other, which underscores that Tolstoy places them on a higher plane than he does his other characters. They are both seekers; neither is satisfied to live an unexamined life dictated by society. But Anna flirts with Levin, and her mention of Kitty is shifty. She raises the possibility that Kitty could end up where Anna has; she raises the possibility of infidelity, divorce, ruined reputations. This not only serves to emphasize that Levin and Anna--for all they share--are essentially different, but foreshadows Anna's ruin. Levin is the hero of this book; no principal character can cross him and have a happy life. After Levin and Anna's meeting both couples argue. Kitty notices that Levin has an uncommon gleam in his eye and is afraid that her husband has fallen in love with Anna. After talking about it all night, they fall asleep, totally reconciled. It's different with Anna and Vronsky. Vronsky's been away a lot and this makes Anna insecure. She thinks that she's more attractive to other men--she knows the effect she had on Levin--than to her lover. In order to get Vronsky to pay more attention to her, she tells him she is "near disaster and afraid of myself." Anna can't help herself; she feels that an "evil spirit of strife" exists side by side with their love, not only in her heart but in his as well. This "spirit of strife" seems bigger than both Anna and Vronsky. Do you think it is one of "the bitter things from God" to which the epigraph refers? ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS XIII-XVII These chapters are devoted to the birth of Kitty and Levin's baby. To Levin, it seems that everything is happening in a dream. Kitty, although this is her first child and she is in pain, has an intuitive comprehension and feels peaceful. When he sees his newborn son at Kitty's breast, Levin is astonished at his feelings: He feels pain, because he knows that his son--being human--is destined to suffer. NOTE: TOLSTOY ON CHILDBIRTH Scholars say that Tolstoy wrote the single most elaborate childbirth scene (five chapters!) in the history of literature to his time. He clearly did so to underscore a strong belief that childbirth is a momentous occasion. He also develops his theme that women are in touch with the awesome processes of life to a far greater degree than men. That Kitty is surrounded by her family during her pregnancy as well as during childbirth highlights Tolstoy's theme that marriages exist primarily for the creation of children, that the primary purpose of sex is not personal pleasure but procreation. Tolstoy places this scene as rebuttal to the views that Anna expressed to Dolly on pregnancy and motherhood. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS XVIII-XXII Here you get a glimpse of Tolstoy's nightmare vision of the future: an industrialized and bureaucratized Russia. You remember that the Oblonskys' finances are in bad shape. Things are worse than ever, and Stiva decides he must take drastic means to improve them. He applies for a well-paying bureaucratic post, membership on the Committee of the Joint Agency of the Mutual Credit Balance of Southern Railways and Banking Houses. Stiva starts talking to all his friends (and friends of friends) in government. NOTE: RAILROADS AND FARMING Tolstoy deplored the rise of the types of committees to which Stiva wants to belong. He felt sure that a bureaucracy would ruin Russia. Cooperation between railroads and banks was especially worrisome to Tolstoy, for he knew that farmlands would have to be destroyed to build railroads. This would be devastating on two accounts, believed Tolstoy. Agriculture had always been the mainstay of the Russian economy, and the farming life the backbone of Russian tradition. Tolstoy believed that Russian peasants were different from the peasants in European countries, because they believed that their destiny was to inhabit the vast, sparsely populated lands in the east and south. To build railroads in those regions would not only destroy the practice of farming, but a part of the Russian psyche as well. Karenin agrees to help Stiva get the job he wants. Why do you think this is? After all, Stiva has been asking Karenin to divorce Anna, something he doesn't want to do. Stiva, while visiting with Karenin and other friends in Saint Petersburg, learns that Karenin has fallen under the influence of a man named Landau, a so-called clairvoyant who has taken society by storm. One of the socialites went so far as to adopt him and give him the title of Count Bezzubov. Karenin asks Stiva to meet him later that evening at Countess Lydia's; there, he says, he will give him his decision on divorcing Anna. Lydia tells Stiva about Karenin's religious "conversion," letting him know that Karenin's decision will be dependent on Landau's advice. They enter a particularly weird scene. Landau goes into a trance listening for voices, uttering strange phrases. Suddenly, Landau says that Stiva must leave. The next morning Stiva receives a note from Karenin saying that a divorce is impossible. Tolstoy's contempt for Karenin and Countess Lydia and her crowd couldn't be made more plain. That they could be taken in by a fake like Landau--that they could lionize him--points up that they have no genuinely religious feelings. Karenin is using "religion" to justify his desire to punish Anna; he fools himself into thinking that he has piously turned himself over to a higher power. The seance scene shows Karenin to be not only pathetic and self-deceiving, but spiteful and cruel. Think about the ways in which Tolstoy develops Karenin as an essentially weak individual. Trace his decline. Think back to this scene later when Levin has his spiritual revelation. You'll want to contrast the two men and the ways in which they deal with religion. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS XXIII-XXXI This is the end of Anna. In writing Anna's final hours, Tolstoy is at the height of his dramatic and descriptive powers. Anna is at her wit's end. She's exceedingly lonely, nervous, impatient for her divorce, distrustful of Vronsky, wildly jealous. She has convinced herself that he is in love with Princess Sorokina who is a sort of secretary to his mother. Vronsky is also at the end of his rope. Anna is very difficult to live with. He continues to go to the theater, opera, concerts, and so forth, even though Anna cannot go with him. Do you think Vronsky is merely being cruel? Do you think he's being cowardly in not taking Anna with him when he goes out? Do you think that the only way he can keep his head above water is to get away from Anna from time to time? After another fight, Anna and Vronsky decide to return to the country. Vronsky has one item of business he must attend to. When Anna realizes that he'll have to see Princess Sorokina in the process she creates a terrible scene. The next day Anna says she won't be ready to go to the country. This is typical of the sudden reversals that have come to characterize her actions. The same day Stiva sends Vronsky a note saying the prospect isn't good regarding Anna's divorce. Vronsky tries to comfort Anna by saying that she and the children they will have together mean everything to him. Anna replies that his mention of children means he gives no thought to her. Anna is being impossible, yet Vronsky does his best to remain cool and polite. Anna misinterprets his reserve for icy hatred. After he leaves, Anna makes up cruel things he might have said to her and believes them. She goes to bed with a headache, directing a servant to tell Vronsky she prefers not to be disturbed. She then tells herself, "If he comes to my room, he still loves me; if not, he doesn't." This is totally irrational. Vronsky, respecting what he believes are her wishes, goes to bed alone in his study. That night she has her nightmare again of the man near the railroad tracks. The next day Princess Sorokina drops by with some papers for Vronsky to sign. Anna flies into a rage and again refuses to go with Vronsky to the country. Vronsky, not knowing how to deal with Anna's unreasonable behavior, leaves the house. Anna sends him a note begging forgiveness, but the messenger doesn't get there in time. Anna sends the servant to Vronsky's mother's home. She then goes to Dolly's house where she meets Kitty. Anna immediately thinks that Vronsky regrets not having married Kitty. She deliberately tells Kitty how much she enjoyed meeting Levin, hoping to make her jealous. But Anna is so obviously unhappy that Kitty can only feel sorry for her. Hastily, Anna leaves. At home Anna receives a telegram from Vronsky saying that he won't be home until ten o'clock. She's furious and resolves to go to his mother's to meet him. She doesn't realize that he hadn't received her note when he wired, and that he doesn't know what she's feeling. In the carriage on the way to the train station, Anna tells herself silly jokes, torments herself with thoughts of Vronsky's supposed infidelities, with thoughts of her husband and son. She forgets why she is going to the station. Her servant reminds her. She boards the train thinking that she has finally learned the key to life: All people are born to suffer, life is nothing but a torment. When she arrives at the station where she will have to change trains, she receives a note from Vronsky apologizing that her note didn't reach him earlier. No matter, Anna is burning mad. All she can think of is her desire to punish Vronsky. She kneels down so that the train car will run over her, then tries to get up, but it's too late. NOTE: THE DEATH OF ANNA KARENINA In her final moments, Anna sinks to Karenin's level: Both of these characters are driven by their desire for revenge. Some readers feel that this is Tolstoy's strongest condemnation of Anna. You should also give some thought to the fact that Anna tried at the last moment to run from death. You know that Tolstoy believes that birth-life-death constitute one positive cycle. Anna twice tries to put herself outside this cycle--by her refusal to have children with Vronsky and by thinking of her death as a means to do harm to Vronsky. Anna has no trace of Kitty's intuitive understanding with the life cycle and none of the tough-mindedness that Levin shows as he grapples with his fear of death. Try to look at Anna's death from all angles. To what extent do you think Anna's society is responsible for her downfall? To what extent is Vronsky responsible? How does Anna bring about her own misfortune? Her refusal of Karenin's first offer of divorce can be seen two ways: either she refuses because she wants a better deal, i.e., custody of Seriozha; or because she feels so guilty toward Karenin that she wants to punish herself. One can't deny that Anna suffers because of the way her former friends reject her, but her greatest suffering is due to the turmoil within her. This seems to refer to the epigraph. Notice how Tolstoy's descriptions of Anna grow increasingly detailed and lush in this section. He kills her off, but in doing so he seems to be killing a part of himself as well. Tolstoy may have intended to punish Anna, but his compassion equals his disapproval. What about you? What do you feel for Anna Karenina? ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: BOOK II, PART VIII In this part, Tolstoy steps back from the lives of certain of his characters and deals with them as though they were bit players in the epic story of Russia. Because of the political content, Tolstoy's original publisher refused to print this part of the novel. He summarized it in a prose section entitled "What Happened After the Death of Anna Karenina." A crucial event in this part is Levin's religious illumination. This is important in personal terms because Levin is the hero of the book, and in larger terms because Levin represents Tolstoy's hope for the future of Russia. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS I-V Tolstoy launches right into the Slavic question--you recall that in 1875 the Slavs living in the Ottoman Empire revolted against the Turks' discrimination against them. A good number of Russians supported fighting on behalf of the Slavs. Take careful note of which characters support the Slavic cause. Sergey, Levin's very intellectual half-brother (you remember his and Levin's arguments on the zemstvos and the peasants earlier in the novel) joined the cause after the book he'd been working on for years got terrible reviews and sold poorly. Stiva, who is doing his best to maneuver his way into government, also supports the Russian campaign. Vronsky, too, is a supporter. Again there is a scene at a train station. Vronsky, you learn, was next to death himself after Anna's suicide. He seems to be going to war as an honorable way of committing suicide. Once the stalwart soldier, he now appears feeble, wracked by grief, and suffering monstrously from, of all things, a toothache. Tolstoy seems to be making fun of Vronsky here: It's one thing for a soldier to die heroically, quite another for him to suffer a toothache. You may recall that Tolstoy previously used Vronsky's strong jaw and even teeth to symbolize his masculinity. All of the characters who participate in the Slavic campaign are in some way defeated individuals. Tolstoy uses them not only to express his own opposition to Russian involvement in the Slavic war, but to express his belief that men like these will be the ruin of Russia if allowed to have a strong hand in policy making. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: CHAPTERS VI-XIX Sergey goes to visit the Levins, and the scene shifts to their estate. The big excitement there is that the baby has begun to recognize those close to him. Kitty, musing on this development, reflects on her husband's restlessness as well. The more Levin studies, the more lost he feels. He can't reconcile himself to the fact that when Kitty was in labor he prayed, although he never recognized in himself anything resembling faith in God. His mind tells him not to believe in God, yet somewhere in himself is a longing for faith. Levin's turning point comes when he has a talk with Theodore, a peasant. Theodore tells him that one must not live for one's belly, but must remember God and live for one's soul. Levin sees the light--he equates God with goodness, realizing that goodness is beyond the chain of cause and effect. It's important that a peasant helped Levin to this realization--it underscores Levin's full partnership with those who work for him. Levin feels euphoric, thinking that he'll never again be cross with anyone, that he'll only be kind. But then he snaps at a peasant, and is made aware that just because he has found faith does not mean he'll be perfect. But in his new state of grace, Levin can live with the fact that to be human is to be flawed. On his way back home, Levin is told that his wife and son have gone to the woods. Suddenly, there is a thunderstorm. He is terrified that they might be struck by lightning. When he reaches them, he finds them drenched but safe. The storm has symbolic value: Remember that Tolstoy has used a stormy sky to represent the storminess in Levin's soul. After the rain, the sky is clear. And water is a traditional symbol of purification; it is as though Levin is baptized by the rain. The final incident in Anna Karenina shows Mitya recognizing his father. For the first time, Levin sees that not only is the older generation constantly thinking of the younger, but that the younger thinks also of the older. It is as if a great circle is finally complete. ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: TOLSTOY AT WORK When Anna Karenina began to appear in the Russian Herald, long galley proofs were sent to Father, which he corrected and revised... till the proof sheets were so blotched and blackened that... no one but maman could decipher the black web of signs, transpositions, and deletions. She would sit up all night making a fresh copy of the whole thing. In the morning the new pages, covered with her small clear handwriting, would be neatly piled on her table, ready to be sent back by post "when Lyovochka gets up." But first papa had to take them to his study to look over them "for the last time," and by evening it was the same thing all over again: everything had been rewritten and scribbled over. -Ilya Tolstoy, Tolstoy, My Father, 1971 ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: ON THEMES Anna Karenina is not a book with a single theme, but many themes. We can easily assume that Tolstoy wanted to recapitulate for himself and for his readers everything that he knew about men, women, and life.... In this great summing-up, however, there is no catharsis, no resolution. For just as Anna's despair intensified but distorted her sensibilities just before her suicide, the edge of crisis and conversion sharpened and deepened Tolstoy's already comprehensive vision of life. And because Tolstoy was morally and artistically no longer capable of simplifying that vision, the many themes of Anna Karenina resist resolution and coexist only in a fragile equilibrium. -Ruth Crego Benson, Women in Tolstoy, 1973 The real tragedy of Anna, and of certain characters in Hardy's novels who perished like her, is that they are unfaithful to the greater unwritten morality.... All the while, by their own souls they were right. -D. H. Lawrence, as quoted in D. H. Lawrence and Tolstoy: A Critical Debate, by Henry Gifford and Raymond Williams, 1959 ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: ON WOMEN And his attitude toward women... is one of implacable hostility. There is nothing he likes so much as to punish them--unless they are just ordinary women like Kitty.... Is it the revenge of a man who has not achieved as much happiness as he is capable of, or the hostility of the spirit toward the "humiliating impulses of the flesh"? Whatever it is, it is hostility, and very bitter, as in Anna Karenina. -Maxim Gorky, Lev Tolstoj. Sobranie socinenija, 1951, as quoted in Women in Tolstoy I was sitting downstairs in my study and observing a very beautiful silk line on the sleeve of my robe. I was thinking about how people get the idea in their head to invent all those patterns and ornaments of embroidery, and that there exists a whole world of woman's work, fashions, ideas, by which women live. All that must be very cheerful, and I understood that women could love this and occupy themselves with it. And, of course, at once my ideas moved to Anna and suddenly that line of thought gave me a whole chapter. Anna is deprived of all these joys of occupying herself with the woman's side of life, because she is alone. All women have turned away from her, and she has nobody to talk to about all that which composes the everyday, purely feminine occupations. -Leo Tolstoy, as recorded in his wife's diary, November 20, 1876 How many unforgettable, personal and characteristic feelings and sensations of Anna Karenina are preserved in our memory--but not one thought, not one personal, peculiar word exclusively her own, not even about love.... her complete absorption in passion is such that she shields us precisely from intelligence, consciousness, higher selflessness and the unsensual aspect of the soul. Who or what is she beyond love?... We know nothing of this, or almost nothing.... Yet surely it is possible that we see the body and soul, even the "personality" of Frou-Frou with no less clarity, for Vronsky's horse also has her own "night soul," her elemental-animal face--and this face is one of the characters of the tragedy. If it is true, as someone affirms, that Vronsky seems like a stallion in an aide-de-camp's uniform, then his horse seems like a charming woman. And, not without purpose, there emerges an elusive, mysteriously ominous fusion of the "eternally feminine" in the charm of Frou-Frou and Anna Karenina, which later deepens more and more. -D. S. Merezhkovsky, L. Tolstoy and Dostoevsky: Life, Work, Religion, 1912 ^^^^^^^^^^ ANNA KARENINA: ON STRUCTURE AND STYLE The unity in structure is created not by action and not by relationships between the characters, but by an inner continuity. -Leo Tolstoy, in a letter, January 27, 1878 Two words about Anna Karenina--this is indubitably your best work.... The book lacks architectonics. Two themes not connected in any way develop in the novel side by side, and they develop magnificently. How I enjoyed the acquaintance of Levin with Anna Karenina. You must agree that this is one of the best episodes of the novel. Here the opportunity presented itself to tie together all the threads of the story and to provide a unified conclusion. But you did not want this.... Anna Karenina will nevertheless remain the best contemporary novel and you the first contemporary writer. -S. A. Rachinsky (a university professor in Moscow who wrote frequently about literature), 1878 We are not to take Anna Karenine as a work of art; we are to take it as a piece of life. A piece of life it is. -Matthew Arnold, "Count Leo Tolstoy," first published in the Fortnightly Review, December 1887 Tolstoy is the greatest Russian writer of prose fiction. Leaving aside his precursors Pushkin and Lermontov, we might list the greatest artists in Russian prose thus: first, Tolstoy; second, Gogol; third, Chekhov; fourth, Turgenev. This is rather like grading students' papers and no doubt Dostoevski and Saltykov are waiting at the door of my office to discuss their low marks.... One discovery that [Tolstoy] made has curiously enough never been noticed by critics. He discovered--and certainly never realized his discovery--he discovered a method of picturing life which most pleasingly and exactly corresponds to our idea of time. He is the only writer I know of whose watch keeps time with the numberless watches of his readers. All the great writers have good eyes, and the "realism," as it is called, of Tolstoy's descriptions, has been deepened by others; and though the average Russian reader will tell you that what seduces him in Tolstoy is the absolute reality of his novels, the sensation of meeting old friends and seeing familiar places, this is neither here nor there. Others were equally good at vivid description. What really seduces the average reader is the gift Tolstoy had of endowing his fiction with such time-values as correspond exactly to our sense of time. It is a mysterious accomplishment which is not so much a laudable feature of genius as something pertaining to the physical nature of that genius. This time balance, absolutely peculiar to Tolstoy alone, is what gives the gentle reader that sense of average reality which he is apt to ascribe to Tolstoy's keen vision. Tolstoy's prose keeps pace with our pulses, his characters seem to move with the same swing as the people passing under our window while we sit reading his book. No wonder, then, that elderly Russians at their evening tea talk of Tolstoy's characters as of people who really exist, people to whom their friends may be likened, people they see as distinctly as if they had danced with Kitty and Anna or Natasha at that ball or dined with Oblonski at his favorite restaurant,... Readers call Tolstoy a giant not because other writers are dwarfs but because he remains always of exactly our own stature, exactly keeping pace with us instead of passing by in the distance, as other authors do. -Vladimir Nabokov, Lectures on Russian Literature, 1981 THE END