(Dear blog readers, if you have not read the book, and want to save some suspense for when you actually do get around to reading it, read no further. On the other hand, if you are a student who has just been assigned this heavy novel to read, and have no desire to read it, one could actually pick up a thing or two from reading the rest of this post, though you will be damned to that special hell reserved for students who willingly give up intellectual stimulation for temporal expediency)
Anna gets so ill everyone thinks she is going to die.
Her husband forgives her, so moved is he to pity by her tragic fate. He even allows Anna’s lover, Vronsky, to mourn at his dying wife’s bedside. And when Anna has Vronsky’s baby, Karenin loves it and plays with it as if the child were his own.
What a stellar, absolutely moral and upright man (sort of like Christopher Tietjens in Parade’s End, which self will blog about further, when she’s done with Anna Karenina. The Man is completely hooked by the story and has already watched all the episodes. Self staunchly refuses to watch with him because she loves taking it slow. That way, she gets to parse every twitch of Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall’s stiff upper lips. She did watch the previews for Episode 3, and there is a scene in which Christopher Tietjens says to Blonde Suffragette: “When I get back from the war, will you be my mistress?” And what do you think the Blonde Suffragette says in response? Just imagine how you would respond if Cumberbatch/Tietjens were to pose such a question to you, female readers!)
And now, back to Anna Karenina!
That old master, Tolstoy, does not permit Anna K to die. No, that would be far too simple. Anna recovers! And then it’s back to the same-old, same-old.
On pp. 446- 447 of the Modern Library edition, Anna’s husband, Karenin, reflects on his decision not to divorce her:
Never had the impossibility of his situation in the world’s eyes, and his wife’s hatred of him, and altogether the power of that mysterious, brutal force that guided his life contrary to his inner mood, and exacted conformity with its decrees and change in his attitude towards his wife, been presented to him with such distinctness as that day. He saw clearly that the world as a whole, and his wife, demanded — but what exactly, he could not make out. He felt that this was rousing in his soul a feeling of anger destructive of his peace of mind and achievement of any value. He believed that for Anna herself it would be better to break off all relations with Vronsky; but if they all thought this out of the question, he was even ready to allow these relations to be renewed, so long as the children were not disgraced and he was not deprived of them or forced to change his position. Bad as this might be, it was better than a complete break, which would put her in a hopeless and shameful position and deprive him of everything he cared for. But he felt helpless; he knew beforehand that everyone was against him, and that he would not be allowed to do what seemed to him now so natural and good, but would be forced to do what was wrong, though it seemed the proper thing to them.
This book is not just about Anna K, dear blog readers. It’s equally about the compromises Anna’s husband feels he is being forced to make, in order to retain some of society’s respect. Tolstoy, you’re such a sly one: you’re a true master at showing the unpredictability of human emotions.
That coward, Vronsky, tried to kill himself but missed his heart (if in fact he was ever in possession of one) and survived, even though it was an hour before help came. Imagine that!
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.