Thursday, March 18, 2010

Anna Karenina Read Along: Part Two

Today I am continuing my thoughts on Anna Karenina with Part Two of the book, as part of the Read Along hosted by Mari at Bookworm with a View.  Here is a link to the synopsis and feedback for Part One from last month.

Part Two Synopsis (Wikipedia):
The Shcherbatskys consult doctors over Kitty's health which has been failing since she realizes that Vronsky did not love her and that he did not intend to propose marriage to her, and that she refused and hurt Levin, whom she cares for, in vain. A specialist doctor advises that Kitty should go abroad to a health spa to recover. Dolly speaks to Kitty and understands that she is suffering because of Vronsky and Levin. Kitty, humiliated by Vronsky and tormented by her rejection of Levin, upsets her sister by referring to Stiva's infidelity and says she could never love a man who betrayed her.

Stiva stays with Levin on his country estate when he makes a sale of a plot of land, to provide funds for his expensive city lifestyle. Levin is upset at the poor deal he makes with the buyer and his lack of understanding of the rural lifestyle.

In St. Petersburg, Anna begins to spend more time with the fashionable socialite and gossip Princess Betsy and her circle, in order to meet Vronsky, Betsy's cousin. Vronsky continues to pursue Anna. Although Anna initially tries to reject him, she eventually succumbs to his attentions.
Karenin warns Anna of the impropriety of paying too much attention to Vronsky in public, which is becoming a subject of society gossip. He is concerned about his and his wife's public image, although he believes that Anna is above suspicion.
Vronsky, a keen horseman, takes part in a steeplechase event, during which he rides his mare Frou-Frou too hard and she falls and breaks her back. Vronsky escapes with minimal injuries but is devastated that his mare must be shot. Anna tells him that she is pregnant with his child, and is unable to hide her distress when Vronsky falls from the racehorse. Karenin is also present at the races and remarks to her that her behaviour is improper. Anna, in a state of extreme distress and emotion, confesses her affair to her husband. Karenin asks her to break off the affair to avoid society gossip and believes that their relationship can then continue as previously.
Kitty goes with her mother to a resort at a German spa to recover from her ill health. There they meet the Pietist Madame Stahl and the saintly Varenka, her adopted daughter. Influenced by Varenka, Kitty becomes extremely pious, but is disillusioned by her father`s criticism. She then returns to Moscow.

My thoughts: 
Part Two was much more difficult for me than Part One.  In the first part, I was entralled by the early chase of Anna by Vrosksy.  The forbidden love was interesting.  In Part Two, Vronsky and Anna had already declared their love and they were flirting around St. Petersburg while most all of society knew about their affair.  In Part One, Levin was my favorite and I was pained by his rejection by Kitty.  In Part Two, he was back in his country home and descriptions of the farm, hunting and purchase of a forest bored me a bit.  The interaction between Kitty and Varenka were interesting, and because I can't seem to remember anything about the plot from the first time I read the novel, I'm anxious to see what happens to Kitty when she returns to Moscow.

Following are the discussion questions that Mari selected from's Book Club.  I've included my responses for each.

1. Talk about Anna's friendship with Princess Betsy. Why are they fond of each other, and what important roles do you see them playing for each other?

I think that Anna is drawn to Betsy because Betsy is aware of her relationsheip with Vronsky.  Anna, although she previously avoided Betsy and her circle of friends, feels like she has the ability to be herself in Betsy's company.  By being her friend, Anna also has a more frequent opportunities to see Vronsky.  Other than Betsy's ability to keep tabs on Anna and Vronsky, I do not recall a good motivation for her friendship with Anna.

2. Spend some time discussing the courtship and interactions between Vronsky and Anna. What do you find to be unique about the way they talk to each other? Do you recognize it as something you would call "love?"

The conversations between Anna and Vronsky are interesting.  When they are able to meet at Betsy's house, Anna spends a great deal of time trying to convince Vronsky to go back to Moscow and apologize to Kitty.  She frequently makes excuses for why they should not be together.  Vronsky on the other hand, only professes his love for Anna, and counters her every attempt to break off their relationship with an excuse for how they will always be together.  I think that they are in love, but it is strained and because of Anna's marriage it is difficult for them to be together. 

3. Do you get the sense that Anna truly feels guilty about the actions she has taken with Vronsky? If not, why do you think?

I think that Anna professes that she is guilty about the relationship, but she is more inconvenienced by their inability to be together.  She spends more time telling him why they cannot be together than declaring her love.  It is possible she has more anger at herself for the situation than guilt toward her husband or son for the impropriety.

4. Society—what it means to be a part of high society or operate successfully in society—is discussed at length in Part Two. What do you feel you have discovered about the way Russian society used to work. How does it seem different from your life today?

Society in Tolstoy's Russia is centered around class and wealth.  It appears that many jobs in government are secured by the wealthy, including Stiva's.  Social circles seem to play an important part in society - who you know, who you work with, who you spend time with.  There also seems to be quite a bit of evening socialization, where members of the same circle attend parties at night.  This provides Anna and Vronsky the opportunity to meet and mingle, while still being able to maintain the appearance of propriety.

5. When Kitty tells Varenka at the end of Part Two that she will never marry, do you believe her?

I feel that Kitty is still feeling sorry for herself.  She is still in love with Vronsky and because she knows that he is in love with Anna, she does not see herself marrying another.  I hope that she will have the opportunity to meet Levin again and have the possibility of marriage.
Off to Part Three!

1 comment:

  1. Yeah for you! I will answer the questions this weekend... I can't believe I'm hosting the readalong and haven't had a chance to answer them myself. Yikes!

    It's actually interesting to read your answers before I answer the questions. You have given me something to think about, I haven't thought about how to answer Betsy/Anna relationship yet but I do agree with you.