Sunday, May 23, 2010

Anna Karenina Read Along: Part Four

Mari at Bookworm with a View is hosting a Read Along of Anna Karenina.  We are reading one of the novel's eight parts each month.  Here are the links to my thoughts on Parts One, Two and Three.

Mari has posted discussion questions for Part Four on her site.  Feel free to jump in with us and participate in the Read Along!

Part Four Synopsis (Wikipedia):
Anna continues to pursue her affair with Vronsky. Karenin begins to find the situation intolerable. He talks with a lawyer about obtaining a divorce. In Russia at that time, divorce could only be requested by the innocent party in an affair, and required either that the guilty party confessed (which would ruin Anna's position in society) or that the guilty party was discovered in the act. Karenin forces Anna to give him some letters written to her by Vronsky as proof of the affair. However, Anna's brother Stiva argues against it and persuades Karenin to speak with Dolly first.

Dolly broaches the subject with Karenin and asks him to reconsider his plans to divorce Anna. She seems to be unsuccessful, but Karenin changes his plans after hearing that Anna is dying after a difficult childbirth. At her bedside, Karenin forgives Vronsky. Vronsky, embarrassed by Karenin's magnanimity, attempts suicide by shooting himself. He fails in his attempt but wounds himself badly.

Anna recovers, having given birth to a daughter, Anna ("Annie"). Although her husband has forgiven her, and has become attached to the new baby, Anna cannot bear living with him. She hears that Vronsky is about to leave for a military posting in Tashkent and becomes desperate. Stiva finds himself pleading to Karenin on her behalf to free her by giving her a divorce. Vronsky is intent on leaving for Tashkent, but changes his mind after seeing Anna.

The couple leave for Europe - leaving behind Anna's son Seryozha - without obtaining a divorce.

Much more straightforward is Stiva's matchmaking with Levin: he arranges a meeting between Levin and Kitty which results in their reconciliation and betrothal.

My Thoughts:
Part Four has allowed me to fall back in love with Anna Karenina.  I love the focus on the relationships and the love story.   I have such a soft spot for Levin and am thrilled that he and Kitty have found each other again.  The dynamics between Anna and her husband are intriguing and I am still trying to come to grips with my feelings about Anna and Vronsky's love.  Having previously hated Karenin, Part Four has shown a new side that has made me like him more - maybe it is the vulnerability that he is showing both in his political and public life, as well as in his marriage.

Discussion Questions (from
1.  Reflect upon Karenin's predicament. He can't easily divorce his wife, yet she has moved beyond the pale of his influence. If he were to handle the situation in a morally upstanding way, what would be his best course of action?

This is such a difficult situation.  I have a hard time not placing a modern solution to this problem, where a divorce would allow both Anna and Karenin to go their separate ways, and Karenin would not be looked down upon for having separated from an adulterous wife.  I think that divorce is still the best option for Karenin, although with his new-found magnanimity in Part Four, he will struggle with this option, because it does not bring he and Anna back together in the most morally acceptable and religiously appropriate solution.

2.  How is Kitty and Levin’s courtship different from the courtship earlier in the novel? I think that both Kitty and Levin have grown up and are willing to share their love for one another.  Kitty has realized her true feelings for Levin, and was not ashamed to ask for his forgiveness.  I was very pleased that they only had to be together again for one evening to know that they should never be apart again.

3.  At the beginning of the novel, we learn that Anna has a very close bond with her son Seryozha. Talk about what it means for her to leave him in order to be with Vronsky.
In my opinion, Anna must be sacrificing everything for Vronsky by leaving Seryozha behind.  As a mother, it seems a selfish act to choose a lover over a child, without even mention of a fight to keep him.  I think in Part Four we see Anna at her very bottom.  She is annoyed and disgusted by her husband and she is willing to give up her son in order to be away from him.  I question her motivation despite her confessed love for Vronsky, I wonder whether he is truly the reason that she is leaving.

Part Five, here we come!

1 comment:

  1. Wait - Did I read question 3 wrong? I thought that was her brother! The question even says 'son'. That's a completely different question :). HA

    I'm going to start part 5 this week. I'm really enjoying Anna Karenina.