Anna Karenina Read Along: Parts 3 &4
For those who are just tuning in, this is post three for the Anna Karenina Read Along hosted by Five Alarm Book Reviews. I am reading the edition published by Penguin Classics, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. The translation flows well, and is incredibly readable.
Part 3 *Spoiler Alert*
The focus of Part 3 was split between Levin and his visits with his two brothers, and Anna, Vronsky, and her husband and the increasing tension between the three of them. Levin recieved his brother Sergei Ivanovich in the midst of his haycutting season. The visit both confused Levin and challenged him. He makes some major changes to the farm and his interactions with those who harvest with him and maintain the land, instituting a system by which the profits are shared in order to encourage the workers more earnest involvement.
Things come to a head between Anna and her husband after Vronsky is injured at the races. Anna in her distress voices what her husband has known, that she has had an affair with Vronsky and that she is pregnant with her child. She thinks she’s solved things, breaking the barrier of silence in confession, but really, she has stirred the pot in a way she may have never intended.
This section ends with a visit from Levin’s brother Nikolai, who is seriously ill with consumption. Levin is faced with his pending death and the realization of his own mortality and it prompts him to action.
Part 4 *Spoiler Alert*
Things both move forward rapidly, and fail to proceed at all in this section.
Levin, aware of his own mortality and seeking his happiness, proposes to Kitty again. He scarcely knows what he’s getting into, and he is floating.
Karenin, Anna, and Vronsky enter a strange phase. Karenin is incensed at Anna and her impropriety. After he catches her with Vronsky, he begins pursuing divorce proceedings, knowing full well what the result will be for Anna. But then…things change. He returns after the birth of Anna and Vronsky’s daughter is born, and he forgives her and Vronsky. There’s more to the section…but I don’t want to give it all away. 😉
I thought part three really dragged in the parts discussing Levin and his farm. He’s so incredibly shy and reserved it seems that the only thing that really breaks through for him are things that induce strong emotions- embarassment, anger, deep sadness, and love.
I love Levin’s relationship with Kitty, but I am concerned about the height of the pedestal he has placed her on. He takes a risk in revealing himself through his diaries, and when she responds with both disgust and tenderness, he sees himself as even more unworthy. Is she really that much more innocent than he?
The Anna, Karenin, Vronsky triagle remains baffling to me, particularly with the twist whereby Karenin forgives them, but then allows her to decide for them all the next stepns in their lives together. What?! It’s not so much the forgiveness itself that I find so shocking, its that Karenin places his future in her hands. Although he may not have admitted it to himself, he loves her and ultimately desires her happiness even if it destroys him.
Tolstoy has created a complex and involved story, one that seems at times to tangent off almost irrationally into politics before returning to the story at hand. The depth of the characters adds that much more to the unfolding story as you see both the interactions of the characters and see the reasons behind their interactions. Although I stand behind my prior comment that the novel is dark, I do admire Tolstoy’s ability to create such a complex story with characters of substance.