Book 1 & Book 2
pages 1 - 251
[Of course there might be SPOILERS]
You all! I did not realize that I would be reading about the lives of so many princes and princesses! Were all upper class Russians considered royalty? What IS that all about? (1) And because of this occurrence, giving my due props up to Tolstoy's Anna K. , I too shall acknowledge myself as Princess.
Book 1 & 2 in a nutshell
"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." (1)
There's quite a bit of infidelity and falseness going on in these Russians lives. The novel (tome!) revolves primarily on the lives of Anna, her husband Karenin and lover Vronksy; Dolly and Oblonsky; Kitty and Levin. There are, of course, a modge podge of other characters that further those three couples plot lines, and they're necessary and full, but excuse my desire to get into MAJOR deets. Immediately upon the opening chapter we find Dolly quite upset because her husband Oblonsky has had an affair with the help. She is beside herself and it takes Dolly some persuasion from Anna to make amends with Oblonsky. Eventually we realize that Vronsky becomes Anna's lover, and Kitty (after refusing Levin's proposal) goes through heartbreak because she was in love with Vronsky but he was only feigning interest (or rather, was quite ignorant of his own flirtation?) and she goes through a period of faking her own Self in pursuit of happiness while abroad.
So here comes the ramblings
- I found it pretty interesting that Anna K was mentioned briefly within the first couple of pages (her trip to see her brother Oblonsky) but she doesn't actually SHOW UP in the book until the fiftieth page or something.
- Anna K is a pretty admirable woman of her times, and from what I've read so far in literary criticism, an exemplary character study of feminism. Sure, she's having an affair and I get that we're not going to condone that (unless you are Oblonsky, who feels that it is it is unrealistic to remain faithful) but even while having the affair, she's trying to remain true to herself. I especially like her speech when she tells Karenin that she's in love with Vronsky. Her reasoning is even more impressive: "I'm a bad woman, a ruined woman, she thought, but I dislike lying, I can't bare lying, while he (her husband) lives on lies." (219) Her train of thought is simply, Karenin MUST know she is having an affair and yet he STILL can't call her out on it. He STILL can't acknowledge what is going on, just like he takes on a false exterior in his career, he does so in their marriage.
- There's this quote that pretty much sums up the vibe I'm getting from the first couple of books: "And though this reply meant nothing, the general took on a look as though he had heard an intelligent remark from an intelligent man and completely understood the point of it." (221) So many of the characters are trying to be something they're not or hiding something they don't want others to see OR pretending they don't see something that is so obvious. Hence the falsehood of the whole crowd. I think that the only character who so far has nothing hiding is Levin. And the level of falseness changes greatly by the person. There's such a concern for how one is viewed. After all that's Karnin's largest concern about Anna's affair with Vronksy.
- One thing that I'm fond of is I get where the characters are coming from. They are perfectly human and decidedly real in my mind's eye. Check out Vronsky. He totally plays Kitty, right? But sincerely doesn't think he has. I mean, he's just pretty dumb about the whole process and because of that you forgive him for unintentionally leading her on. Also, by him falling in love with Anna, he shows growth. And yeah, he's charming, but he's also losing his hair. See...it's not as though Tolstoy is creating a champion Prince Charming. Oblonsky is kinda the same. I mean, he is such a little playboy, right? But he makes no shame of it. It's not as though he is saying one thing and doing the other. Because actually...he makes it quite clear that life is supposed to be lived and he ends up paying for those choices later. BUT he never "learns". (Or at least hasn't yet....) "You must live according to the means of the day, that is forget yourself" (4)
- Also, does anyone know why everyone is so involved in Anna's affair with Vronsky? There's a few references in the book stating how the affluent folks are all judgey about what's going on even though there have been plenty of other affairs in the rich circle.
- Was anyone else cringing during the whole horse scene? All I kept thinking was: BROKEN SPINE! BROKEN SPINE YOU ARSE!
Over all I can't believe I was every intimidated by this novel. Sure, it's lengthy but it is so accessible. I can easily see this becoming one of my all-time favorite novels if it continues at the emotional pace it has been.
"When we dig into our own souls we often dig up something that might have gone on lying there unnoticed." (154)
(1) I realize that I can easily search the netosphere, but alas, I'm lazy. If you know, PLEASE EXPLAIN!