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Anna Karenina
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May 2013- Anna Karenina > Part 2, Chapter 1-35

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Karena (karenafagan) Please keep the discussion to Part 2. Spoilers will be present. Beware!


Jessica | 464 comments We get a bit more into the depth of the relationship between Anna and Vronsky in this part. We actually get watch it progress. In the meantime, Kitty is heartbroken. Not only did Vronksy not propose, but she is also realizing the mistake she made of declining Levin. Quite a spot for her to be in, I'm sure.

Anna and Vronky's affair becomes physical at this point, as well. I am of the opinion this is all physical and a lust fest for Vronsky. However, Anna wants love and attention from Vronksy she feels she doesn't get from Alexey. She calls him robotic and unemotional several times throughout the book. She can't stand to even look at him. I feel sorry for her, even though she has put herself in this situation. She wants to be loved and pined for but can't seem to find happiness. Vronsky presses her to run away, but he doesn't understand why that is not an option for Anna because he has not entered parenthood. He can't even fathom what he is asking of her, to leave her one and only son? While he comes across true in his emotions, I still get the feeling that is all a game for him (like Kitty was). He mentions in part one how he never really wants to settle down. So why go through all of this turmoil?

Then Anna reveals everything after the race to Alexey. And i am pretty sure it is downhill from here. Just a guess. But once, the truth is out...there is no turning back.

Levin works on his farm and is enjoying the quiet peacefulness of the countryside. His sections seem to be a nice break from all the love affair stuff going on right now.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 208 comments I thought it was very compelling that the actual consummation of the relationship is literally just a sentence. You blink, you'd miss it! I think this does a lot to point out that it's not the specific actions that Tolstoy is dealing with, but more the ensuing consequences.


Anil (loykalina) | 79 comments I think it is not a coincidence that Vronsky rides a mare. It might be only me, but I see parallelism between Vronsky's attitude after a certain event and his attitude toward his relationship with Anna.

Also, Karenin reminded me of Torvald in Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House.


Angel Serrano | 131 comments Did Anna say that she is pregnant? It doesn't get more physical than that! :)


Jessica | 464 comments I have gotten to part 4 and everything is starting to run together. Was it in part II or III?


Angel Serrano | 131 comments Part II. I am still there!


Anil (loykalina) | 79 comments I think Alana meant the 11th chapter in Part 2. (I had to check it quickly to remember which chapter it was) It is probably the shortest chapter in both parts and sounds out of place. I needed to read it twice to comprehend it.


Karen (twizelkaren) I have to admit I was a bit confused by what had actually happened when I read chapter 11, but later when Anna admitted she was "with child" it confirmed my suspicions.

I got quite annoyed with Kitty in the early parts of this section. I do not hold much sympathy for the "broken heart" moping to the point of illness, but I was interested in her change of attitude following the events at the Spa. One thing I did love about War and Peace was the way the characters grew and evolved over the course of the novel. I suspect we will also see some examples of this here.


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MiA (mirhershelf) I think that part II gave me better perspective on Kitty and Karenin. Kitty started to evolve into what she ought to be and instead of being submissive to her mother's views of the world, which was what put her through heartache and feelings of shame in the first place, she starts to rebel so slightly and pick her own friends and associates and I am expecting that she'll lead her own way later on. As for Karenin, he's incapable of showing the slightest gesture of affection even towards his son. He's even unable to react towards the situation he finds himself to be in after he locked all the feelings a person could show right then for the sake of proprieties.


Jessica | 464 comments There is a part of me that had Sympahty for Karenin in this situation, though. I understood his relationship with Seryozsha to be a reminder of Anna. When he looks at him, he see her, and therefor has a mixture of emotions, which he does not know how to interpret. He is angry, of course, he is embarrassed, he is jealous (even though he tries not to be) and all of these leads to a feeling of guilt for the way he feels towards his son. It's his own blood and not his fault, Alexey knows this but he is reminded of so much pain when he sees him. I am not condoning any of it, but I believe there is much more under this man's robotic nature.

The inner conflict/argument he has with his conscience shows a depth of emotion we have not seen from him up until now. He is so conflicted with how to handle the affair from here. He is, essentially, over analyzing the situation, although for good reason. He has quite a noble and important position in this aristocratic society, where everything you do or don't do becomes the judgement of others. He also takes Anna into a lot of consideration too.

I feel like his character has so much more depth to it, but the reader is the only one to who sees it. Hopefully he lets more of this inner emotion out/be shown. So, people see him as a human being.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 208 comments I like your analysis Jessica. I know Karenin is not a likeable guy which makes it hard to see from his perspective, even though he is the wronged party in this case. It shows that both parties in a marriage go into making it work, or fall apart, and each can be equally culpable, in many ways. He is not blameless, but nor should we place ALL the blame on his shoulders. It was, after all, Anna who "did the deed."


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MiA (mirhershelf) Karenin is no doubt the wronged one here. It's just that his reaction is passive and is not considerate of what's right for his family but of what's perceived to be right by society.


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Anil (loykalina) | 79 comments I beg to differ on Karenin. Actually, he reminds me of Torvald in A Doll's House. They both neglect their wives and treat them as an object rather than human beings.

Is Karenin wronged? He is if we only take Anna's adultery into account. However, he is guilty for pushing Anna into adultery for not telling her about his real feelings. Anna lets herself go once she becomes aware of that.


Jessica | 464 comments It might be because I am further in, but I disagree. While he does not show or communicate any of his emotions, I think society is also to blame for that. We still live with that to an extent even today. Men are expected, in most high class statues, not to show or communicate their emotions. I think he is a product of keeping to those "rules" without knowing there is a time when those rules MUST be broken. His situation is one of them. But he does not see it that way. The emotion/real side of him we see is all internal dialogue. I, honestly, feel sorry for him and have very little sympathy, at this point, for Anna...She made her own bed.


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Anil (loykalina) | 79 comments I agree with you on that Karenin assumes the masculine role the society back then defined. I also agree with you on that that men-do-not-cry role/duty, however you might call it, still has its effects on the present definition of masculinity. However, he displays no affection toward his wife even before Anna cheated on him. After he realises his wife's infidelity he talks to himself on what he should do to stop her, Anna is his fourth priority among the four main reasons he comes up with. That alone shows his lack of emotions for his wife. I think one of the main reasons for this is that he owns Anna, at least that is what he believes in. I don't remember the exact wording, but he thinks over 'disown[ing' Anna. In other words, Anna is one of his belongings, nothing more. I have almost finished the part three, but I cannot fully sympathise with him even though I understand him.

That is why I do not think Anna is only the one to be blamed on this matter. Can we blame a pet if it scratches us or a hot iron drops over our hands? No, we cannot. Anna is treated as a pet or an iron: something to own. So, it would be unfair to treat her differently. By no means I claim that she is not guilty. She is, but not as that main one. She is not completely "black", but "grey". I think that is the core thing/idea of this novel: Everything is not only black or white, but they are situated somewhere in between those two.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 208 comments Obviously both of them are to blame to some extent for their situation. Karenin did influence his wife's decision to seek another relationship. However, Anna chose to cheat on her husband which is absolutely without excuse. No one, including Karenin, MADE her do anything.


James | 10 comments I probably enjoyed part 2 more than part 1. The horse race was brilliantly written. Although kitty matured a little bit I find her so unlikable, even when she's being nice to people it's all done out of self interest.


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Anil (loykalina) | 79 comments Would she cheat on him if he made it obvious he cared about her? I really don't think so. It isn't his love and respect for Anna that is his first reason to object/attempt to tell her what she does wrong, but his honour. She realises that and then commits adultery. In other words, she doesn't commit adultery just because she is a serial adulterer, but her husband has already closed emotional doors.

One might wonder why she does not get divorced. According to the rules mentioned in the copy I have, only "innocent" party in a marriage can ask for a divorce. I am not sure whether lack of emotions in a marriage and its irrevocability can be considered as a good reason for a divorce in a legal point back then. Moreover, Anna would end in misery even if she was the innocent side. There is no legal protection in financial terms in late 19th century. Also, it is not easy to give up a luxurious life. I admit it is hypocrisy at its best to continue living with someone who provides a luxurious but emotionless life and have an affair with someone else. That is the point I criticise Anna. However, I understand her taking into account the legal rights of women back then. It is not that she does not want to leave that life behind. She does need to be secured a life that might offer less privilege, which is understandable.

I also think Anna is more honest than his brother. She can sacrifice her marriage for something she longs for unlike her brother, who wants to eat a cake and have it too.


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MiA (mirhershelf) Anil, no one would treat Anna like a pet or an object without her consent in the first place. What did she do to change it in the long 8 years of her marriage? Nothing. Out of nowhere, came Vronsky with his bewitching character and she realized that what she had is not what she wanted. Moreover, just because a careless merchant lays out his goods on a pavement doesn't mean that it's a reason for me to steal it. The same applies for Karenin. He's emotionally disabled, incapable of showing love and affection and focused on business matters and societal appearances. But that's a reason for his woman to step up for herself.
The only reason I sympathize with Anna is that her deed is unforgivable for the sole reason that she's a woman of status, for the same deed won't arouse as much tumult in a family if she were a man as in her brother's situation.


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Anil (loykalina) | 79 comments You would be right that no one could treat Anna as an object if it were 21st century, but what we talk about happens in 19th century. Actually, as you know, even the women in the West gained their rights after the second wave of feminism in 1960s. Therefore, I think it is unfair to judge Anna's actions as if she were a free woman.

I think why Anna starts an extramarital relationship is to show that she is not an inanimate object that can be taken in guarantee, but someone who lives and has feelings that needs to be fulfilled. It is indeed a valid question why it has taken so long for her to realise that. It is not that she comes to that realisation. In fact she has already come to it long before her visit to Moscow to reconcile her brother and his wife. She continues her marriage for her son. She only respects her husband. But that respect ends once she encounters with someone who addresses her basic needs: care and emotions. Could she leave it at just infatuation without going further? She could, but she is a person, not a model of virtue. In my humble opinion, this is the main topic of the book: there is no single person who is a personification of virtue. Everyone has grey areas, and thus, they should be judged as that.

Also, I think your merchant analogy cannot be applied to Karenins' marriage. I haven't married, yet, but witnessed my parents and my friends' marriages and seen that it doesn't work when no love and respect for each other left. That is what happens in Anna Karenina, too.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 208 comments Honestly, I don't think she thinks it through that fully. She just has a general feeling of unhappiness, someone comes along who has all the right words and charm, something that has faded from early in her marriage (if it ever existed) and she just allows herself to be swept off her feet. She doesn't think it through at all, just enjoys the experience. It's only afterwards, when the consequences are beginning to hit her in the face, that she really begins to think about her place in society and why she's continuing to do this at all.


Jessica | 464 comments I understand what you are saying Anil, however I do not think her intentions go that deep. I believe when Anna meets Vronsky at Kitty's ball it's her typical flirting she does with all men. (As we see, throughout the book, this is a part of who Anna is. Her husband complains about it and it is something she continues to do.) The difference with Vronsky is he responds and not in a fun way. He is serious and specific in his actions/reactions to her. I think she does like the attention. What girl wouldn't even if they are happily married. It becomes something more when she turns into a physical attraction. As soon as we read about the first time she calls her husband ugly in reference, specifically, to his ears, it's downhill from there. This leads me to believe it is about a physical desire for Anna, which goes against a desire to more than an object. She could have proven that with anybody. Both Anna and Vronsky are captives of the ever so popular deadly sin, lust. It is purely physical. Yes, Anna believes it is love because it is not something she has ever felt around her husband. But in my honest opinion it is a far cry from love. They both just want the excitement of a physical touch. the question is what happens when the shine wears off?


Amanda | 15 comments I was feeling a bit sorry for Anna in this bit, mainly because she is a woman who feels neglected and si she has turned to someone who has paid attention to her. However, I feel that she still hasn't found what she needs, because Vronsky doesn't seem to grasp the fact that she can't just up and leave like he would like her to, and Anna's husband won't let her go to save his face... good Lord does she pick some selfish men or is it just me?


Susan Purcell | 32 comments Jessica wrote: "I understand what you are saying Anil, however I do not think her intentions go that deep. I believe when Anna meets Vronsky at Kitty's ball it's her typical flirting she does with all men. (As we ..."

I agree 100% that what they had is "a far cry from love." I think Tolstoy really hit it when he described that they had "killed" the love by giving into their lusts. Real love doesn't lead to destruction.


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Anil (loykalina) | 79 comments I agree with you on that it was the attention she received attracted her. However, the narrator tells us that Anna is shown as an example of virtue in Petersburg, which, in turn, vexes other women there. The narrator also tells us that it is perceived as a noble act for a single man to go after a married women for its being an impossible act. (I need a better noun here.) Being shown as a role model and being very attractive, Anna should be the one to be approached by other single men. Yet, she doesn't do anything till she meets Vronsky. That means either all of men in Petersburg are extremely unattractive--which is impossible--or she isn't approached by others--which is impossible again. In other words, she has not given into lust till she meets Vronsky. Therefore we can conclude that what she feels for Vronsky is much, much stronger than lust even though she is physically attracted to him.


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Alex Cross (anotheralexcross) I found it very curious that Tolstoy didn't address the intimate act between Anna and Vronsky more directly; sex is an issue he has no trouble describing (albeit by 19th century standards) in The Devil.

The subject of religion also stood out to me in this section. Kitty found the succour of Christianity incredibly tempting, and how could one not when:

"... it was a lofty, mysterious religion, bound up with a series of beautiful thoughts and feelings which one could not only believe in because one was told to, but could also love."

And:

"... in all human griefs consolation is given by faith and love alone and that no griefs are too negligible for Christ's compassion for us..."

Kitty turned to God at a time of overwhelming dissatisfaction with her life, and found solace in it. I think the later revelation of Mme Stahl's unpleasantness is not so much Tolstoy criticising the hypocrisy of religious people, but more than there is no single truth or way to access faith. Kitty's personal spirituality is providing her with comfort, and unlike James above, I don't think that her doing good deeds out of self-interest is necessarily a bad thing. It's merely her expression of her faith in order to learn to love herself.

Sorry, that made no sense. :)


Christine I am in the camp that believes that Alexis Karenin really does love Anna but either his upbringing or the ways of the society do not let him show it. Tolstoy tells us more than once that Alexis was not able to say to Anna what he was thinking but instead talked about how her actions appeared in society. It would seem that he has been trained well on how to behave (perhaps we will find out more about his upbringing later in the story).
Anna is lonely and Vronsky is charming and pays attention to her, I think she misinterprets his attention for more than it is. It is hard for me to see Vronsky as really caring for Anna at this point. To me the horse race parallels his feeling towards Anna. It seems a bit like a conquest.


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Ida | 1 comments I echo with Anil that what Anna feels for Vronsky is not merely lust. But on the other side, Vronsky is only attracted by Anna physically, because if you do care a person you will be considerate and at least not asking her to leave her only son so easily. I am mom of a 18-month boy, nothing could make me leave my son!


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Lisa (dagny115) | 10 comments Anil wrote: "I agree with you on that it was the attention she received attracted her. However, the narrator tells us that Anna is shown as an example of virtue in Petersburg, which, in turn, vexes other women ..."

Anil, I think you hit it on the head - Anna is for 8 years this example of virtue in an unvirtuous Petersburg society, and you can't tell me other men didn't try. Vronsky not only turned her head, but made her fully commit a sin by her own standards, something she never considered doing before. A woman like that doesn't go that far with a man just because he doesn't have pointy ears. I think she really loves him, and I think it came out of nowhere for her.

All this talk about Alexey, who ever said their marriage was for love anyways? I don't think they ever expected to have real love. We know from Part 1 that her mom arranged her marriage to him as well; I think their marriage is a pretty typical high society 19th c Russian marriage - more for status and income than love. My impression of Alexey is that he's mostly just insulted that his wife would think of another man and that she might be tarnishing their perfect reputation in town. Or making their marriage "common". We know even in her circles there are plenty of other marriages where the wife or husband is cheating, people gossip about it but it's not the end of the world. I think Alexey's upset because he thought he was above that.

Has anyone else noticed that Anna's husband and her lover have the same first name? I can't help but think that's not some coincidental oversight on Tolstoy's part. I keep drawing the parallel that if for some reason Vronsky had decided to get married, he would probably be a pretty similar husband to Alexey - pretty robotic and emotionless, just with expectations for his wife. I find that interesting.


Christine Lisa wrote: "Anil wrote: "I agree with you on that it was the attention she received attracted her. However, the narrator tells us that Anna is shown as an example of virtue in Petersburg, which, in turn, vexes..."

Lisa- I have changed my mind about Karenin, I agree with you that Anna's marriage is not one of love. I guess the romantic in me really wanted it that way!


Jessica | 464 comments C wrote: "I am in the camp that believes that Alexis Karenin really does love Anna but either his upbringing or the ways of the society do not let him show it. Tolstoy tells us more than once that Alexis was..."

I agree 100 %. I thought the same thing about the horse too! I made a thread about it under foreshadowing, if you would like to discuss it. :)

I am slo in the belief that majority of the characters have misinterpreted what love is...is this a theme of Tolstoy's?


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Angie Downs So, I am half way through this Part, and it is terribly boring. Maybe it is because I am mostly listening to it, but I am hoping it picks up. I just got to the part that Levin learns that Kitty is sick and overseas. I hope the plot gets better from here.


Daniel Clark Seeing the affair develop and Anna torn between her life, husband, and child on one side and Vronsky on the other made me think: everyone seems to have two last names (and the convention is still a little lost on me), but Anna seems to always be called by her maiden name, Arkadyevna. It's interesting that the book is not called Anna Arkadyevna, but Anna Karenina, her married name. Is this how Tolstoy defines her true identity? As the married woman, someone who is no longer her own but belongs to her family?


Jessica | 464 comments @Daniel I believe so. I read some cliff notes and that is one of Tolstoy's themes. the importance of family at a time when it was not top priority in the Russian household at this time continues throughout the novel. I never made the connection about her maiden name being used. You brought it all together for me. Good connection.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 208 comments Is it called Anna Karenina in the original Russian title? Or is it that way in the English version because traditionally women have taken their husband's last name, and it would have been confusing to English readers? I don't know the answer, I'm just curious.


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Jessica | 464 comments Alana wrote: "Is it called Anna Karenina in the original Russian title? Or is it that way in the English version because traditionally women have taken their husband's last name, and it would have been confusing..."

I looked around online to see what I could find. This is an image of the 1878 publication. It would be Anna Karenina in it's translation.

https://www.google.com/search?q=anna+...

I would assume readers during that time would have been able to figure out that Arkadyevna was her maiden name. I think it is noted as such in the book.


Addie Degenhardt (addiedegenhardt) Jessica wrote: "There is a part of me that had Sympahty for Karenin in this situation, though. I understood his relationship with Seryozsha to be a reminder of Anna. When he looks at him, he see her, and therefor ..."
I think Karenin's inner monologue is a strong example of societal developments. He isn't content with simply telling his wife to stop the affair, which seems to be the expectations and role of the man in society. Instead, he wishes for her to see the mistake of it and choose to love him. Although a noble request, I would appreciate a little more aggression on his part.


Addie Degenhardt (addiedegenhardt) Alex wrote: "I found it very curious that Tolstoy didn't address the intimate act between Anna and Vronsky more directly; sex is an issue he has no trouble describing (albeit by 19th century standards) in The D..."

Someone mentioned in a post above about the role the sex scene really played in the plot that I agree with. I think by downplaying that scene, Tolstoy encourages the reader to instead focus on the resulting consequences of the indiscretion, question why it happened, and the juxtaposition of the developing "modern" society against the traditional.


Kgwhitehurst | 29 comments Jessica wrote: "Alana wrote: "Is it called Anna Karenina in the original Russian title? Or is it that way in the English version because traditionally women have taken their husband's last name, and it would have ..."

A Russian has three names--his/her given name, his/her patronymic, his/her surname; hence, it is Anna Arkadyevna (daughter of Arkady) Karenina. (Karenin is the masculine form.)
Tolstoy doesn't talk about the family to which she was born, so who knows what her maiden name was.

BTW, for Tolstoy himself, his full name was Lev Nicholayevich (son of Nicholas) Tolstoy. And there are multiple ways to transliterate into Latin alphabet since Russian is written in Cyrillic.


Jessica | 464 comments Kgwhitehurst wrote: "Jessica wrote: "Alana wrote: "Is it called Anna Karenina in the original Russian title? Or is it that way in the English version because traditionally women have taken their husband's last name, an..."


I thought it mentions how Anna was raised later in the novel...It's only in a paragraph not 3 pages worth. But I thought I remembered reading it.


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Lisa (dagny115) | 10 comments Wouldn't her maiden name have been Oblonsky? As she's Stepan's sister?


Kgwhitehurst | 29 comments I'd forgotten she was Stepan's sister. It's easy to lose track of that sort of thing in a Russian novels. Her maiden name would then be Oblonksa. The masculine/feminine of names gets lost in translation, particularly in the American press.

Aside from the number of characters with difficult names, the nicknames can create all kinds of problems because the nicknames change spelling depending on the emotion expressed. I found this out when I was writing a Russian character who wasn't very bright. My friend who does Russian linguistics lent me her name book. It's got the proper names, all the nicknames for those names, and the usages for those nicknames. Of course, the book was printed in Cyrillic, not Latin alphabet, but Boris isn't too different so I figured it out. Bora and Boba (angry nickname).


Alana (alanasbooks) | 208 comments Actually I think in the translation I listened to, she was referred to at least half the time as Anna Oblonskya. So confusing!


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