Happy Thanksgiving to all my bloggers. Is Thanksgiving a strictly American holiday? I never took the time to think about things like that until I became a blogger. What I find particularly perplexing is that the most faithful of my followers aren't American. I've found a way to see the density of viewers in different countries, and thus I've discovered that I seem to have a heavy following in Russia of all places.
Anna Karenina, despite its name, does not merely focus on the repressed and entrapped housewife of a Russian aristocrat, but is instead one of those entrancing novels that ties together the stories of many characters in various situations. Anna is drawn from her wealthy husband in St. Petersburg to Moscow to assist in the marital troubles of her brother, Stiva, who has been unfaithful to his hardworking wife and is now seeking to rescue his family. Around the same time, Kostya, an unreligious country intellectual, arrives in the same city to propose to the younger sister of Stiva's wife. Meanwhile, Stiva goes to the train station to pick up Anna who has been traveling with the mother of Vronsky, whom Kitty (the girl Kostya is proposing to) is in love with. (Are you starting to see what I mean about the intentional connections between characters?)
In the midst of this blur of relations, impressively long names, assorted shortened titles, and strange coincidences, Anna and Vronsky begin an affair that estranges her from her wealthy husband, Karenin, and wages a war of divorce and child custody issues. The aforementioned obstacles are synonymous with scandal and destruction in Anna's world, and thus she slowly begins to sink. Anna conceives Vronsky's child and he fervently pleads for her to legally divorce her husband and marry him. Unable to bear any stain upon his family name (and bitterly hurt by the blow to his conceit), Karenin refuses to grant a divorce and further stipulates that if Anna leaves him that she must give up seeing the son they had together. In the midst of this, Kostya and Kitty make a life together that begins to intertwine with that of Vronsky and Anna. The novel closes rather suddenly, almost peacefully; the end to a chaotic, brain-wracking, and heart-wrenching tail.
While Anna Karenina is indisputably one of the greatest examples of dictional, syntactical, and linguistic literary excellence, it is a lot to swallow. The book is about 900 pages of calamity so vivid in its description that it at times may dizzy the reader. Anna Karenina is a controversial character whose moral and mental strength is subject to strong debate. The social commentary on nineteenth century high society is evident in her plight. However, it was not Anna's story that I found to be the most captivating piece of the novel, but rather that of Kostya. It is his maturation that I found to be the most interesting aspect of the book, and in many ways I might consider him Anna's foil. While Anna's story is the testament to the social, mental, and emotional degradation that often came as the result of real love, Kostya symbolizes the possibility of doing things right and receiving the "happily ever after."
The book is perplexing, alluring, and even appalling. The great strength in that is that the reader is constantly engaged and always reluctant to tear their eyes away. Yet, there is also something mysteriously forbidden about Anna Karenina, as if you are gluing your eyes to something you should not see or perhaps cannot handle. It is much too heavy for the delicate constitution of a Jane Austen lover, of an entirely different breed than that of Jane Eyre, and its conflicts are much more realistic than those of Wuthering Heights. I might perhaps group it more within the range of Tess of the D'urbervilles. However, as confounding is it is, I would not wish for any devoted literature fanatic to miss out on it. Opinions on the plot and characters may vary, but the beauty of Leo Tolstoy's use of language is undeniable.