Sunday, July 15, 2012

ANNA KARENINA Read-Along: Second Week, Parts III and IV

Welcome to the second week of
this fabulous read-along, hosted by
Stephanie @
Five Alarm Book Reviews!

If you'd like to participate,
just click on the button for this meme,
located in my sidebar.
Then, write your own post,
and link up by clicking on the
button above!

Overall Impressions

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!

I think, at this point, that the main reason I'm reading this book now is to find out whether or not Kitty and Levin get married.  As for Anna and Vronsky, I can't relate to their situation at all.  I can't feel any sympathy for Anna, even if she feels trapped in a loveless marriage.   I don't think she made enough of an effort to resist her attraction to Vronsky.  Apparently, the divorce laws of the time would not have allowed her to divorce Karenin simply because she no longer loved him (which I doubt she ever did).  Of course, everything in their society was geared to benefit the interests of men.  Still, I think that Karenin has been very patient with her.  A man of a different temperament would have left already.  It seems that Karenin loves her, in his own way, although she can't see that at all.

Vronsky's behavior is totally despicable, even if he has indeed fallen in love with Anna.  He didn't have to hurt Kitty in the process, for one thing.  For another, he should have taken Anna's son, Seryozha, into consideration.   Apparently, he doesn't care about the effect his affair with Anna might have on her son.  Sad to say, she does feel some guilt in this regard, but pushes it away because she just has to be with Vronsky.   I can't stand this!  I can't help but dislike women who consider their 'current flame' more important than their own child. 

In Part 3, Levin has become more spiritually-oriented as he takes care of his estate.  He has become immersed in agricultural theories, and gets along quite well with the peasants, or muzhiks, whom he joins for work in the fields, treating them as equals.  He is particularly preoccupied with the idea of falseness, in himself as well as others.  When he takes some time in order to visit Dolly, he perceives her interaction with her own children to be full of falseness, and this disturbs him.  Dolly attempts to explain Kitty's behavior to him, and, instead of feeling reassured, he feels the need to put some distance between himself and Dolly.  He even contemplates marriage to a peasant woman of his acquaintance. 

However, he happens to catch sight of Kitty on her way to Dolly's house, in a carriage, and suddenly realizes that he still loves her.

In this part of the novel, Karenin, desperate at the situation with Anna and Vronsky, threatens to take their son away from her if she doesn't break off her affair.  Apparently, this has no effect on her, and the affair continues.

In Part 4, the affair continues, and Karenin then begins the process of seeking a divorce.  However, in a strangely ironic turnaround, Stiva asks him to speak with Dolly first.  In spite of Dolly's attempt to dissuade him, Karenin seems determined to go through with divorce proceedings.  He does reconsider, though, when he finds out that Anna is dying due to a difficult childbirth (she gives birth to her daughter, Annie, whose father is Vronsky). 

Vronsky also comes to see Anna, and Karenin ends up forgiving him.  Vronsky then later tries to commit suicide, seemingly because he is guilt-ridden after being forgiven by Karenin, as well as distraught because of Anna's impending death.  Although his suicide attempt fails, he does wound himself seriously. 

After her recovery, Anna decides to leave with Vronsky, who has recovered from his wounds, and is supposed to travel to a military posting in Tashkent.  They leave instead for Europe, without accepting Karenin's offer of a divorce, which the latter had finally decided upon.  What really bothers me is that Anna leaves her son behind when she takes off with Vronsky.  Again, this apparent lack of motherly concern toward Seryozha makes me dislike her more and more...

Thank God that another couple in this whole drama have gotten together -- Kitty and Levin!!  Prompted by Stiva's matchmaking efforts, they reconcile and become engaged to each other.  At last, something happy takes place, in the middle of all this drama!!  Hurray!!!   I'm rooting for these two!!   

And now I'll answer the great questions posed by Stephanie @ Five Alarm Book Reviews, the blog hosting this read-along:

1.)  How do you feel about the fact that Levin has taken on the work of a laborer, mowing right along with the muzhiks?  How does this endear him to you as a character?

I have loved Levin thus far, and this definitely makes me love him even more!  In spite of the fact that, in a previous argument with his brother, Sergei, Konstantin Levin said that he was not interested in "the common good", he certainly disproves it in this mowing episode!  He treats the muzhiks as equals, working just as hard as they do, sharing food with them.  I think he's just very idealistic, and doesn't want to admit to that.  He feels uncomfortable when people praise him.  i just love this guy!   He wants any good deeds of his to remain under the radar.   I love it when a guy is modest about his accomplishments!

2.)  Now that you've gotten to know Vronsky a bit more, what do you think of him?  Do you think he makes a good match for Anna?  Why or why not?

I've never really liked Vronsky.  I didn't like the way he snubbed poor Kitty, who was naive enough to believe that he would actually propose to her.  Vronsky is a very worldly man, the total opposite of Levin, who does a lot of soul searching, and wants to be a better person even though he already is.  Vronsky is a little too full of himself.  Even when he realized that Kitty was crazy about him, the realization simply flattered his ego.  He was pleased about the fact that she was in love with him.  Not touched.  Not happy that a sweet girl like Kitty loved him. 

The fact that he goes after a married woman tells me that he's an egotistical, vain person.  He wants to get a trophy.  Besides, he prefers a more mature woman.  Paradoxically, he does have a vulnerable side, for he really does fall in love with Anna.  It seems, though, that, just as quickly as he fell in love with her, he will fall out of love with her just as quickly.  There's no depth to this guy, again, in contrast to Levin.

As for his being "a good match" for Anna, that depends.  I've already addressed this in my previous post, but I'll reiterate that any man who is willing to sleep with a married woman is not trustworthy.  He can end up cheating on that very woman, after all.  Besides, I do think that his love for Anna will eventually fizzle out.

3.)  What do you think of Karenin's choices regarding Anna?  If he were to handle the situation in a morally upstanding way, what would be his best course of action?

I don't think he should have threatened to take her son away from her.  That's cruel of him.  On the other hand, Anna doesn't seem to be that mindful of her son's emotional needs, in much the same way that Karenin doesn't seem to be mindful of hers, ironically enough.  Anna ends up leaving for Europe with Vronsky, without her son. 

I feel sorry for Karenin, now that I've read further.  Initially, I disliked him, but now I see that he's totally trapped, because of the divorce laws of the time.  What could he have done differently, "in a morally upstanding way"?  Not much, I'm afraid.  It would have served Anna right if her husband had taken a mistress himself, but obviously, this is not morally correct. 

In the end, Karenin went ahead with divorce proceedings.  But then Anna left for Europe with Vronsky, without signing the divorce papers I don't understand this.  If she was that eager to get away from a husband she felt revulsion for, then why didn't she sign those papers?

4.)  Do you think that Levin and Kitty make a good couple?  Do you think that Kitty will live out true happiness with Levin?

Oh, yes, definitely, to both questions!!  They fit together so well!!  They're both very idealistic, noble people, with outstanding moral values.  They are a marked contrast to Anna and Vronsky.  Kitty will make a very loving mother, as Levin will be a devoted father.  They are also perfect romantically, since they express their emotions freely.  It's too bad that Tolstoy didn't write a novel focusing on them... I would have devoured it!!

5.)  Were your first impressions of the characters correct, or have you changed your opinion towards some of them?  

Initially, I really liked Anna.  She seemed to be a good soul.  However, as things have developed, I have begun to dislike her.  The fact that she's not that interested in her son really galls me.  Besides, her moral convictions are non-existent.  Even if you're trapped in an apparently hopeless situation, you should always strive to do the right thing.  If that's difficult, you can ask a HIgher Power for help.  Anna doesn't do this, but instead, just gives in to temptation.  I don't feel much respect for someone like that.

As I explained above, I initially didn't like Karenin much.  However, he's turning out to be a pretty decent person, even if he's not very expressive with his emotions, and is obviously a workaholic. 

As for Vronsky, I've already mentioned how I feel about him.  I don't like him at all.

I also didn't like Stiva from the beginning.  However, he has somewhat redeemed himself by making it possible for Levin and Kitty to get finally get together!!

And Levin....ah, Levin!!  Lucky, lucky Kitty!!  I've liked him from the very beginning!  He's my type of guy! 

The other characters... I never liked or disliked them that much, but just took them as they were.


  1. hi Maria! we really got to know more about our players in Parts III & IV. everyone seemed to be affected in one way or another on how things turned out but if you were able to read further you'd know that there would be so much more in store.
    thanks for sharing your thoughts. you were quite thorough with them.

  2. I agree with you on all points. Levin is one heck of a character!

  3. Hi, Ao!

    You know, I've really tried to find some good in Anna and Vronsky. I now know that she has always been unhappy with Karenin. However, I don't think having an affair is the answer. Maybe I need to feel some empathy for her, as well as for Vronsky, since he really DOES love her... I don't know... but I really can't. This is not very pleasant reading for me, as you are aware.

    Thanks for the wonderful comment!! : )

  4. Hi, Freda!

    Yes, he is! He's an honorable, decent, very idealistic man, who is loving and sweet!! I simply ADORE him!!

    I'm glad you agree with me on all points. As I told Ao, I've tried to feel some empathy for Anna and Vronsky, but I just can't seem to be able to get there...

    Thanks for commenting!! : )

  5. I hope for good things for Levin and Kitty too, but my main reason for reading on is to see some sort of hard lesson in the end for Anna and Vronsky. I hope I get it and I hope that it is not at the expense of everyone else.
    All this passion and excitement that Anna and Vronsky has is not real in a long term relationship. It is too bad that she can't be happy with love.
    Isn't it an indication that Anna knows where the love and safety is when she turns to Karenin in her time of need, and an indication of her selfishness when she leaves her family again when she is recovered? Yuck!
    I liked reading about Levin, but all of that agriculture stuff...ugh!
    I agree with you. The story line of Kitty and Levin lightens the load of all of the negativity. The contrast between Anna and Kitty couldn't be any clearer.
    The only one benefiting from the affair is Kitty. Could you imagine if she ended up with Levin. She didn't know it at the onset, but she is one lucky girl.
    I couldn't agree with your thoughts on Vronsky in the question section. He has no depth, morals or selflessness in him.
    I guess we have taken all of our anger and turned it from Oblonsky to Vronsky this week. We are kind of looking like man haters to those who haven't read Anna Karenina. LOL
    I know that it sounds harsh for Karenin to take the son, but I do think that it was more common in the times and I can really relate to the decision. There is no way that I could send my child off to live in some lustful self-centered environment.
    I can't wait to see if our opinions of these characters change in any way next week.
    Great insight on your post. Thank you for your participation.


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