Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Part Two)

Although most the quotes I highlighted dealt with our title character, she did appear to disappear for Parts Two and Three of the novel. It seems as though the majority of these sections follow Levin, Kitty, Dolly, and Stepan Arkadyich (also known as Oblonsky or Stiva) rather than Anna, Alexey Alexandrovitch, and Vronsky.

Sick with shame over her mistake with Vronsky, Kitty has fallen ill and her family has subsequently rushed to cure her with pills and powders, which she views “as absurd as putting together the pieces of a broken vase” (pg. 201) as her heart is broken. She feels humiliation over her rejection of Levin and embarrassment over the love she perceived for and from Vronsky, and uses a trip abroad to the German spa to overcome this by fixating and idolizing Varenka. There is one person she does not idolize – her older sister, Dolly.

“I can’t understand what you want to torment me for. I’ve told you, and I say it again, that I have some pride, and never, never would I do as you’re doing – go back to a man who’s deceived you, who has cared for another woman. I can’t understand if! You may, but I can’t.” (pg. 211)

Dolly has accepted her husband, Stepan Arkadyich, back into her life and given birth to another child. She has realized that discovery of infidelities on the part of her husband could never affect her again the way it had the first time. To discover another infidelity would mean breaking up family habits so “she let herself be deceived, despising him and still more herself, for the weakness” (pg. 204). (For himself, Stiva shapes his life in accordance to his bachelor tastes, often forgetting that he has a wife and children.) Dolly traveled to the countryside, ready to allow her children to experience the joys of life in the country and offer council to the broken hearted Levin.

“Anyway you make an offer, when your love is ripe or when the balance has completely turned between the ywo you are choosing from. But a girl is not asked. She is expected to make her choice, and yet she cannot choose, she can only answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’” (pg. 456).

Levin traveled to his beloved countryside in the hopes of burying his own shame over being rejected by Kitty. He’s convinced he can revolutionize agriculture practiced on his land, while his brother chastises himself for not revolutionizing the lives of the peasants with education and land reform. But Levin’s attempts to forget about Kitty are fraught as “however good that life of simplicity and toil may be, I cannot go back to it. I love her” (pg. 468).

Levin seems to not have a say in his further actions but Anna does. She has confessed all to her husband (except for the minor detail that she expecting Vronsky’s child); he has dispatched a letter stating that she shall return to him and her place as his wife. He wants to do everything he can to keep her with him, concealing what has happened from the world, and – though this he did not admit it to himself – to punish her” (pg. 475).

Anna’s response to the letter changes throughout the novel. She originally feels as though she has no choice but to return to her husband. She views him as an oppressive man, robbing her of the right to be the woman she was meant to be, but she loves her soon too much to become Vronsky’s mistress and rob him of both his mother and his chances for the future. But then she decides to flee with her son, fearful that in a divorce she would lose all access to her son.

“In whatever position she might be placed, she could not lose her son. Her husband might put her to shame and turn her out, Vronsky might grow cold to her and go on living his own life apart (she thought of him again with bitterness and reproach); she could not leave her son.” (pg. 487)

At the conclusion of Part Three, though, she has journeyed to a party in the hopes of asking Vronsky what she should do. I’m curious to see what she will decide to do, although I think Vronsky will council her to leave her husband and become his mistress.

Yikes! What a long summary! But so much happens in just two parts of the novel that it’s hard to make a summary any shorter. I still adore this novel and am appreciative of having the audiobook to help increase my comprehension. I cannot believe I love this novel as much as I do since Russian literature traditionally has not worked for me, but Tolstoy is proving me wrong at every turn.

Book Mentioned:

  • Tolstoy, Leo. Anna Karenina. Translated from Russian by Constance Garnett. Salt Lake City, UT: Project Gutenberg, 2010. Originally published 1877. eBook. 1441 pgs. ISBN: XXXXXXXXXXXXX. Source: Free download.
Book Cover © iBooks. Retrieved: October 25, 2011.
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