I’ve finished it, after 17 days I’ve finished it. When I closed the book I was left with a feeling of almost nostalgia, it felt like I’ve just said goodbye to a dear friend. It surprises me I loved this book so much. Before I read it, I though this one would be one of those books, that though I was scared to read I would end up appreciating the writing, and being very happy because I get at least a tinny bit of the message the author was trying to pass. I sure did not think I would be so moved by this book.
I don’t want to give many plot details because I would hate to spoil the book for you, but I would like to analyze a few things, and explain (if I can find the words for it) how and why the book had such an impact on me.
In the last post I compared Anna and Kitty’s characters, and as I said, now I want to compare theirs relationships with Vronsky and Lévin, respectively, as Tolstoy explores them more deeply in these parts ( 5,6,7 and 8).
Kitty and Lévin finally get married, and though their first months together weren’t easy, they fought quite a lot and had some difficulties to adjust the habits they had developed through their single lives to their married life, they continued to love each other deeply. After those months were over, and after a major event that proved to Lévin that Kitty was not as fragile as he thought she was, their life together becomes much easier and agreeable.
The contrary happens to Anna and Vronsky. This couple started their life together very happily, in Italy, but their relationship and feelings towards each other cool down during the rest of the plot leading to the tragic ending of the story.
Also the way each of the couples lives is very different: Kitty and Lévin always live in the countryside, except during the last months of Kitty’s pregnancy since it was safer to have a child in Moscow than in the middle of nowhere. This couple is very happy in the countryside, living in a simple but comfortable way, always loving each other. Again the opposite happens to the other couple. Vronsky and Anna lived in Italy, Moscow, Petersburg, and in the countryside. In all this places they lived with extreme luxury and comfort, but as the luxury was increasing, their feelings were cooling, and Anna was felling more sad and disturbed.
But what’s the biggest difference between these couples is not the way they live but their feelings towards the object of their love, and the way they feel and express this feeling. Vronsky and Anna’s love is purely carnal, it’s incomplete, while Lévin and Kitty’s love is more than carnal, it is spiritual, and it’s very strong. Understanding this allowed me to understand the reason Anna killed herself. With Vronsky, Anna was looking for a away of experimenting true love. The kind of love she had never heard about but knew on her soul that existed (“And that knowledge I did not acquire in any way; it was given to me as to everybody, given because I could not take it from anywhere” Lévin says in the end of the novel) . Sure she was already married but it was a marriage without emotion, it was a marriage arranged by convenience. So, Anna met Vronsky and since the first moment she is attracted to him, she loves him deeply, or so she thinks, she drops everything for him, her son, her life, her social status, and she does all that thinking that this is it, this is where she finally gets what she desires. But their life together isn’t what she expected.
… the eternal error people make in imagining that happiness is the realization of desires.
Because of Anna’s social status, as a cheating wife, society didn’t respect her, so she avoided it, but that only made her and Vronsky (especially him) feel trapped. And so their feelings started to cool down, to the point where the love they had felt disappears and the only thing that’s left is a physical attraction that is not enough, the happiness that Anna pretends to feel vanishes as well. After comes Anna’s jealousy: the society accepts Vronsky because he is a man, and rich, and noble, so Vronky starts to frequent it, leaving Anna alone with her own mind. She starts to imagine that Vronsky has another lover, that he plans to leave her, and she starts to get crazy (there’s no nice way of saying it), which eventually leads to her death.
For me, what Tolstoy is trying to say (among other things) is that true love, is much more than an attraction, and that if it is discovered it will give great pleasure.
Now, off to the reasons why this books was so remarkable to me.
One of the reasons I loved this book so much is because of Tolstoy’s writing; it’s fluid, clear and on top of all very emotional. While reading Anna Karenina I felt the same that the characters felt, which made the story much more alive. One of the scenes where I felt my mood more influenced by Tolstoy writing was when I was reading the moments prior to Anna’s suicide. Most of this moments are internal monologues, and Anna quickly moves from thought to thought, in an hectic and disturbed way.
The other reason why I liked this book so much was because of Tolstoy cast of characters. As I said before they all seem very real and we get to met each of them slowly, through the cross of the book, which is great because it helps to avoid any confusion with names and nature of each of them. My favourite character remains Lévin, he is truthful, and he feels like a real human being with compassionate feelings. I saw some parts of me in Lévin, as for instance his need to understand the unknown, to understand who he is, and what’s is mission on earth. I don’t let that affect my life in the way Lévin did, and I sure do not feel the urge to kill myself, but I do want to find the answer to that questions and I do use books as a way to find it.
You must read this one.