Arti of Ripple Effects and I decided to read Anna Karenina together before it’s released in film on November 9. She began earlier than I, and is posting on Parts 1-4; I am rereading it more slowly and have only completed up to Part 2. But, we’re still sharing our initial thoughts with you today, perhaps giving you an incentive to read along with us before we finish at the end of October?
I can’t tell you how passionate I am about this novel. I first read it in college, for one of my many Russian literature courses, and I clearly remember writing a paper which I titled, “Anna Karenina: The Plight of The Russian Noble Woman.”
I got a horrible grade.
The professor did not feel that Anna was representative of a typical Russian woman, noble or not, in any way. And now that I have read it again and again in the years since, I think I should have titled my paper: “Anna Karenina: The Plight of People Everywhere.” For to me, it is indicative of the search that we all have to follow our passions, to pursue our desires, to find happiness out of an often dull and repetitive existence. The only difference between some of us and Anna is that we curb our appetites. Whereas she does not.
The novel is full of foreshadowing. As I read my nook, so much lighter to hold than the tome above, I kept marking passages with the highlight function. This, I find, is one of the joys in rereading. You know what’s coming, and you are able to look with what you’re rereading in a “brighter” light. For example, we find Anna talking with the mother of her lover-to-be in their train compartment:
“I could go all around the world with you and never be dull. You are one of those delightful woman in whose company it’s sweet to be silent as well as to talk. Now please don’t fret over your son; you can’t expect never to be parted.”
or, when her husband begins to understand that she is in love with Count Vronsky he says:
“Our life has been joined, not by man, but by God. That union can only be severed by a crime, and a crime of that nature brings its own chastisement.”
We will leave the subject of Anna’s chastisement for later; I simply wanted to point out two small, but extremely powerful, examples of what is to come.
My favorite character in the novel is Levin. He is the landowner, he is the one grounded in simplicity and faith. Almost everything he says is true and good, and I find myself holding him in great admiration. Well, admiration, but also compassion, for the doubts that he holds are the very same doubts I have often asked myself:
“As he saw all this, there came over him for an instant a doubt of the possibility of arranging the new life, of which he had been dreaming on the road. All these traces of his life seemed to clutch him, and to say to him: “No, you’re not going to get away from us, and you’re not going to be different, but you’re going to be the same as you’ve always been; with doubts, everlasting dissatisfaction with yourself, vain efforts to amend, and falls, and everlasting expectation, of a happiness which you won’t get, and which isn’t possible for you.”
It seems that each of Tolstoy’s characters are in a search to discover happiness. To find fulfillment in their lives. It is the way in which they do so which so compels me to love this novel.
To be continued later in October…