Anna Karenina Read Along: Parts 5 and 6 -SPOILERS

So obviously this is a few days late, but I’m actually rather impressed I managed it at all. I barely read at all last week, which is rare for me, so when I started this on Friday morning I really expected to be royally screwed for this installment.

Imagine my surprise when Saturday night rolled round and I went to sleep only 30 pages off target! To be fair, I’ve only just summoned the energy to write my post tonight (Monday), but the thought is there 🙂

I’ve been kind of down and ill this week so unable to concentrate on… well, anything. But the one thing I could focus on? 19th Century Russian epic literature. Go figure.

Parts 5 and 6 were full of indecision for me – there were a few things I just couldn’t make up my mind about, mainly about characters. First off, Karenin. Sometimes I pitied him because he’s obviously the victim in all these shenanigans, but then other times I thought he deserved everything he got – he doesn’t particularly care that Anna has left him, just that he might be diminished in the eyes of society. I liked him throughout the earlier parts, but he’s starting to grate on me now.

Actually, the one thing that really shocked me was in relation to Karenin – he told his and Anna’s son that his mother was dead. What!? No! I actually gasped with shock at this part. I thoroughly blame Countess Lydia (and God, I loathe that woman) but even so that’s a horrendous thing to do to a child. I wish Karenin wasn’t so influenced by her – she clearly has ulterior motives and a nasty, calculating nature. 

   The Countess covered her face with her hands and remained silent. She was praying.
   ‘If you ask my advice,’ she said, when her prayer was ended and she uncovered her face, ‘I do not advise you to do it! Do I not see how you are suffering, how this has reopened all your wounds! Of course as usual you are not thinking of yourself. But what can it lead to? Renewed pain for yourself, and pain for the child! If there is anything human left in her, she herself should not desire it. No, I advise you unhesitatingly not to allow it, and with your permission I will write to her.’
   …
   This letter achieved the secret purpose which the Countess Lydia Ivanova hid even from herself. It wounded Anna to the depths of her  soul. 

As for Anna herself… I have a special sympathy for the character having been not too far from her situation myself. Not that close, mind you, but enough to understand where she’s coming from with some of her feelings. Also, she seems genuinely happy most of the time, and I can’t fault her for that. She makes some stupid and irrational decisions, but I can’t help wanting to make her a nice cup of tea regardless. 

   “You are looking at me,” she said, “and wondering how I can be happy in
my position? Well! it’s shameful to confess, but I . . . I’m inexcusably
happy. Something magical has happened to me, like a dream, when you’re
frightened, panic-stricken, and all of a sudden you wake up and all the
horrors are no more. I have waked up. I have lived through the misery,
the dread, and now for a long while past, especially since we’ve been
here, I’ve been so happy! . . . ” she said, with a timid smile of
inquiry looking at Dolly.

I’ve pretty much already decided that I want to use that quote in my wedding reading. It’s easily my favourite quote from the novel so far.

I could have done without the political rambling in Part 6, but at least it was a hell of a lot shorter than the farming rants of Part 3. It may have been more interesting if I understood Russian politics, but as even Levin seemed confused, I didn’t think I had much hope! 

Also, why have the characters suddenly started breaking into French? They can be having a perfectly normal conversation, but then one of them will randomly utter half a phrase in French and I’ll have to scan the footnotes to see what it means. Why!? I understand most people of the time could speak Russian and French equally fluently, but surely not within the same sentence!? They never used to, I wonder why they’ve started now?

The Prompts

What did you think when Anna and Vronsky took off to live together?  Now that they have, what do you think of them as a couple? 
I can only imagine how hugely shocking this must have been at the time. I was happy for them, but it seemed a little irrational. Karenin had offered her a divorce, but she just decides to take off without finalising anything. It would have made a lot more sense if they had waited a little.
Now that they are living together… eh. I’m not a Vronsky fan really. I suppose he doesn’t treat her all that badly for a ‘husband’ of the time and I can see his point about wanting any children she bears to be legally his, but I wish he’d stop complaining about being bored and be grateful for what Anna went through to be with him.

The more you learn of Anna as a mother, what are your thoughts? What do
you think about her attitude towards the baby, and how do you feel about
her feelings toward her son?
I think our views on what makes a good mother are different to those of the time period. It was normal for upper-class parents to rarely see their children as they were taken care of by nurses, and the Karenin/Vronsky households are no different. I think she’s a good mother in that she tries to do what is right by her son (and fails miserably – she did run off to Rome without him, after all) but clearly she’s not interested in her daughter at all.
I think it’s probably partly a nostalgia thing – it’s not the boy she misses per se, more the life that she gave up. He’s the one aspect of her old life that won’t shun her and so she can’t cut those ties.
Do you think that Anna has ever put anyone before herself in this story? 
No, not once, but I don’t judge her for it. When it’s a decision as big as leaving her husband and setting up with another man, sometimes you can only think what’s best for yourself.
I can’t believe I’m nearly done with Anna Karenina! Looking at the book, there’s only a tiny bit left – Part 8 is the shortest in the whole book, and I’m actually reading having finished it a little bit!
Read my thoughts on Parts 1 and 2 or 3 and 4 of Anna Karenina. 

Comments

  1. Laura says:

    It's always interesting to read your thoughts about AK because I seriously HATED Anna the whole time I was reading (I heart Levin and Kitty forevs!) and so thinking about it from a more sympathetic-to-Anna viewpoint, I'm kind of like 'ohhhh, was I supposed to like her?!' It's fun!

    1. Hanna says:

      I'm not actually sure if we're MEANT to like her. I read somewhere that Tolstoy intended her to be a 'fallen woman' to show the pointlessness behind the sin of adultery, but ended up falling in love with her and writing a much more sympathetic account.

      I STILL don't see the big deal about Levin! I love Kitty, but Levin? Meh.

  2. FABR Steph says:

    OMG, I never even mentioned the fact that Karenin told his son that Anna was dead. Bad move, but probably symbolic to how he is focusing on trying to put her behind him himself.
    You are much more to Anna than myself. I have judged her for a few parts now. I really feel like I am on to her. LOL
    Great post. Thank you for your participation again this week.

    1. Hanna says:

      I know! I seem to be the only one that wants to hug her! I don't know, I just kind of feel a little bad for her. She gave up everything for Vronsky, I'd be worried he'd stopped loving me too. If he had, she'd lose the little she had left and have nowhere to go.

      But GOD. Telling her son she was dead is beyond horrific!

  3. your views on Anna are refreshing and i like the quotes particularly Anna's explanation of how she could be happy.

  4. fredamans says:

    I'm totally with you.

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