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Forgive and forget?

There is lots of forgiving going around, but also haymowing, death anxiety, moth killing divorce lawyers, kids running wild, and the contrast of one family dissolving while another gets ready to tie the knot. And what about Vronsky’s suicide attempt-Anna being pregnant-and so much more? Can anyone sum up this chaos in 250-300 words?

12 Responses to “Forgive and forget?”

  1. Laura Howard says:

    I don’t particularly get a feeling of chaos from this novel. It all sounds pretty plausible to me; it sounds like life. Though there are many, many events taking place, one must remember that this enormously complex storyline involves a whole host of almost-main characters. In that sense, the varieties of plot going on seems to fit in very well.

    I believe that the reason I do not feel a sense of chaos is due to the fact that the characters seem to engage in an adequate amount of communication. If we remember certain characters who did not communicate well in other stories we read in the beginning of the semester – the names of which escape me now – some of those plots were based on missed connections.

    In Anna Karenina, different pairings of people, from Anna to Karenin to Anna and Vronsky to Levin and Oblonsky, surprise me with their levels of frankness. There’s very little secrecy – after all, Anna’s and Vronsky’s affair is far from a secret one. The whole society knows about it. Anna also does nothing to conceal her pregnancy from Vronksy. In chapter 22, she tells him outright about her condition. And in chapter 29, Anna and Karenin discuss Karenin’s feelings regarding Anna’s behavior – Karenin says that he found improper “the despair you [Anna] were unable to conceal when one of the riders fell.”

    Similarly, when Oblonsky visits Levin, Levin asks for all the details regarding Kitty’s condition. Levin could have easily feigned indifference about Kitty – after all, it should hurt his pride to ask about her, after the humiliation of her refusal. Yet Levin is honest about his feelings – he tells Oblonsky that he does, in fact, feel humiliated. All of this honesty, openness, and communication leads to a storyline that, while complicated, is not entirely chaotic.

  2. Kelsey says:

    Parts 3 and 4 are in part about the break and clinging to rules of society. Anna finally tells her husband what he has been suspecting, and he now finds himself free to exact revenge by continuing to torment her though continuing their repressive marriage. He knows what he wants to do after hearing the news, but finds it useful that society and religion support him in his plan. On page 282, he is pleased that religion especially to his view morally justifies what he is doing, though he has never sought guidance from religion before. Anna knows that she is in a bind, to put it lightly, but she also knows that she has given up everything for Vronsky’s love. She is entering waters uncharted by societal rules for guidance, and as she admits to herself, she is not strong enough to go without the luxuries of society. Levin and Kitty are getting engaged the unconventional way, not simply through visits and one predictable proposal at the proper time, but in fits and starts, but relatives and love finally bring them around. Society’s customs had to be gingerly handled by the family, to ensure that the love was always there could flower. Dolly clings to motherhood, practicalities, and appearances while Stiva is busy running after sweet rolls. There reality is a unpleasant marriage, but societal rules hold (complete) chaos at bay.

  3. Vanda Gaidamovic says:

    The unfolding storyline, indeed, resembles a big nasty welter composed of a sequence of the ironic twists and some complex reversal of roles, lives and directions.
    Anna, who helped to save Oblonsky’s family from a divorce, has torn her own marriage apart and, in a way, slipped into her brother’s previous position of a disloyal partner. Dolly, whom Anna taught forgiveness in the first part, acts as a mediator now, and tries to convince Karenin to forgive his wife and save the family. Karenina herself, exhausted by her current situation, gradually loses her initial balanced posture, grace and inner harmony.
    Another significant turn occurs in Levin’s fate. His story begins with the ending of his interaction with Kitty and hopes of marrying her. This part, however, changes the trajectory of his life and portrays the successful beginning of, probably, the healthiest union in the novel.
    Therefore, similarly to Alexandra, I would summarize these shifts and changes as different ‘beginnings’ and ‘endings’. Or even more so, as the beginnings of the approaching endings.

  4. Rouan Yao says:

    These next few sections of Anna Karenina are indeed eventful. In my opinion, however, it is the juxtaposing and constantly changing interpersonal relationships which develop that characterize this part. Most noticeable among these changes in relationships is the mending of broken ties. For example, Levin, who had finally begun to find solace in working with the peasants in the fields, loses his passion when he sees Kitty again. When they meet each other again, Levin’s past coldness which he felt towards Kitty was thrown aside as both of them realize their love for each other anew. The coldness between Anna and Karenin is shed by a little bit, when Anna nears death. Karenin finally finds the compassion to feel for Anna, even going as far as being willing to sacrifice his own reputation in society. Karenin, who was also estranged from his children, have this coldness fall to the side when little Anna is born, and he finally feels devotion towards the baby girl. Near the end of the fourth part, the distance which surfaced between Anna and Vronsky is also dissolved, on news of Anna’s declining health. This cannot be said for all relationships in the novel, however. On the other hand, stagnation is also seen. Despite the chaos of the last scandal, Oblonsky still pursues mistresses without Dolly’s knowledge.

    The Juxtaposition of Karenin’s stuck-up, albeit faithful attitude in society and Stiva’s immoral, but pleasant presence in society is a strange interaction to observe. In addition to this, the interaction between Vronsky and Karenin is also interesting, as the two have never had extensive interactions before. This further highlights the major differences between Karenin and the other characters in the novel, and brings to light just how secluded he is from the rest of the characters.

  5. Brandt Silver-Korn says:

    In my mind, the chaos in the middle chapters of Anna Karenina can in one way, be summed up by a single word: anti-climactic. Thus, to answer one of Alexandra’s questions… I think it is through the undramatic presentation of this chaos and drama that Tolstoy achieves “realism.” Life is full of the potential for drama and certainly more so in high society, where concerns clearly tend to focus less on “surviving” and more on “living.” Tolstoy clearly recognizes this. However, even as the multitude of juxtaposing relationships, (“the tug and pull” of beliefs) create a soap-opera esque drama, we are seeing it void of the climactic episode ending developments. Just as an example (drawing from a different section of the book), it is clear for many pages that Vronsky and Anna are going to have a relationship. But it drags on and on much like a soap-opera would, giving the audience the impression that maybe their suspicions are wrong. But instead of the consummation being climactic and in my opinion, unrealistic, Tolstoy tells us in half of line at the beginning of a chapter: “this desire had been satisfied” (149). In life, these things just happen. There is not a sudden moment where any of Tolstoy’s chaos is realized, but rather many moments (the many sentences in between the “climactic actions”) where the chaos is drawn out. Chaos is life itself, not the pulling of the trigger to commit suicide, or Nikolai’s death (which is drawn out at length in the most realistic of ways, as there is not a single phrase uttered and then death..but rather periods of better and worse and then a slow and dull death). It is in a way, a realistic soap opera for scholars who want something more than simple “I hate you,” “I love you” climaxes.

  6. Ben Kingstone says:

    Alexa poses an interesting question. Is this book “larger than life?” Perhaps the length of Tolstoy’s masterpiece suggests that the questions he poses are only answerable in an extended work.

    Critics champion Anna Karenina, like Madame Bovary, as a work of realism. The narrative structure–with the dual, intersecting plots of Levin-Kitty and Anna-Vronsky with background plots of home life–provides for and requires a complex understanding of character. In few other works do the personages appear so rich and developed. Tolstoy knew his characters down to the minute degree, and he describes them with the intensity and focus of a realist painter. Yet we could ask the question, “Is this real?”

    Tolstoy manages to create hyper-real situations that live in the realm of the possible but are described with such vividness that can appear unreal. Anna’s emotions–like Anna Bovary’s–are hyper-sensitive. For example, as she anticipates telling Vronsky she is pregnant, “Her hand, playing with a plucked leaf, was trembling. He saw it, and his face showed that obedience, that slavish devotion, which touched her so” (187). Only in a world where people live in a super-aware or hyper-aware state could this gesture be possible.

    Yet this is the perfection of Tolstoy’s prose and what makes it special. His attention to detail–life-life or hyper-life-like–and his imagination of character interaction inspires us to read his works a century and a half later.

  7. Bryanna Kleber says:

    Part III starts with Levin and his relationship with the land and work, both give him great pleasure. Then, Levin finds out that Dolly has moved to the countryside near him and he pays her a visit. Dolly really does not like living in the country and complains a great deal about it. Levin tells her that Kitty turned him down and Dolly is surprised to hear this.
    Karenin is still pretending like Anna is not having an affair. Simultaneously, he is starting to pull away from his son. Karenin sends Anna a letter that says she cannot divorce him. Anna writes a fake response saying she is running away with their son. She’s really pissed about the letter he gives her because she doesn’t like the man and the thought of having to stay married to him disgusts her.
    Vronsky goes to visit Anna and she tells him that Karenin knows about their affair. Then, Anna goes back to Petersburg to meet with Karenin and he requests one thing: that Vronsky doesn’t go to Karenin’s house ever.
    Levin is starting to hate the farm and his brother visits and he is sicker than before. Levin thinks that his brother will die, and all he can think about is death.
    Part IV: Karenin and Anna are still outwardly pretending nothing is wrong. Karenin stages times to see Anna so that not even their workers know something is wrong. Anan sends Vronsky an invitation to her house when she thinks Karenin will not be there. Karenin ends up being there though. Anna freaks out at Vronsky and he thinks it’s just because she’s pregnant. Anna then tells Vronsky that she is going to die soon because she had a dream that foresaw her approaching death.
    Karenin is really upset and decides to divorce Anna. He goes to a lawyer and tells him that Anna has been cheating, but the lawyer says that Vronsky’s love letter will not be evidence enough. Karenin tells Dolly, and she disagrees with the decision because she thinks Anna will be heartbroken.
    Levin and Kitty rekindle their relationship and he proposes to her again and this time, she accepts.
    Anna has her baby and falls ill. Karenin goes to see her and she asks for Karenin to forgive both she and Vronsky. Vronsky is so distraught that he tries to kill himself, but fails. Karenin develops feelings again for Anna and becomes very emotional about her state. He even agrees to say that he was the one who cheated so that Anna can save her image. Anna still wants nothing to do with Karenin and she and Vronsky take off.

  8. Melody Wang says:

    I am just going to focus on Vronsky’s suicide incident. In Part IV of the novel, Karenin visits Anna as soon as he receives from Anna a telegram informing him that she is about to die and wants “to die more peacefully with forgiveness.” (IV 17). As Anna implores Karenin for forgiveness, he surprisingly and genuinely forgives her. And the fact that he “was not thinking that the Christian law which he had wanted to follow all his life prescribed that he forgives and love his enemies; but the joyful feeling of love and forgiveness of his enemies filled his soul,” deepens the poignancy of Karenin’s situation. At the same time, this transformation also traces Karenin’s moral growth in this crisis. And when Vronsky learns that Karenin has forgiven Anna, he is tormented by his guilt and his misconceived preconceptions of Karenin: “The deceived husband, who till then had seemed a pathetic being, an accidental and somewhat comic hindrance to his happiness” is actually “not wicked, false, ludicrous, but kind, simple and majestic.” And when he returns home and tries to sleep, Vronsky couldn’t fall asleep because his thought is complicated by his doubts over the authenticity of his love towards Anna. ALL of a sudden, he decides to fire a pistol at his chest. Unfortunately, he doesn’t even kill himself, which is just so humiliating and pathetic on his part. Even though his suicidal attempt seems to impart on him certain tragic, romantic and heroic qualities, I personally find his impetuosity to be simply immature, coward, and reprehensible. This incident shows that he certainly does not have the courage and responsibility to face the consequences of his destructive role in Karenin’s marriage. And I don’t think his suicide is a sign of his attempt to compensate for the pain and misery he has caused to a family, he was just being impulsive and spontaneous at the moment.

  9. Flora Weeks says:

    There is certainly a lot going on in this portion of the book, and throughout all of Anna Karenina, but it never feels chaotic to me. Perhaps this is one of Tolstoy’s skills; he can write a story that is full to brimming with plot lines, while still helping readers to keep it all sorted and understandable. Reading the prompt for this blog post, or Emily’s valiant attempt at summing up the story, you are certainly overwhelmed by all that is happening and how each plot line connects with the others. I think part of the reasons you don’t get this same effect reading Anna Karenina is the wordiness of it. Tolstoy writes the book in over 800 pages, and the reader needs all of that time in order to process everything that happens and the transitions each character goes through. The idea of summarizing the book, or even the book thus far, into only 300 words goes directly against Tolstoy’s intentions. Anna Karenina is not just about the actions and events that take place, but also the characters and relationships we, as readers, get to know. For example, we can try to condense the haymowing into only a sentence or two, which is probably more than it deserves as a relatively short scene involving only one of the main characters of the novel. However, I do not believe it is possible to condense a scene so based on images, metaphors, and relationships into only a couple of sentences while retaining its meaning and significance. Maybe we need all of Tolstoy’s wordiness just to avoid chaos.

  10. Romany Redman says:

    Initially, the drama seems a bit like Jane Austen minus the cheese. However, the events are punctuated and accentuated by tidbits of developing philosophies, which challenge the origin of human action and interaction. Part three begins with the contrast of Levin’s and Koznyshev’s views of the country: a place of rest or a place of work, bringing into light one of the many philosophical questions: For what do we work? Practical vs intellectual work? Is practical work applied theory or is theory informed by practice? This train of thought transforms into reflection on human relationships. Levin examines his love for Kitty, Kitty – her thoughts on compassion, Karenin – his views on marriage, Anna – the expectations of family. Often physical isolation in the form of trips to Europe or to the countryside serves as a tool of self reflection. So really, we are witnessing a tug and pull of beliefs about human nature which are best illustrated with the soap-esque drama.
    Like Alex mentions, Dolly and Stiva’s relationship doesn’t do much during this portion of the novel. In a way, Dolly and Stiva are our baseline, the basis for comparison between someone who knows their belief system (family) and someone who has no set standards of belief, other than a fun time. As we watch everyone else develop, we can compare them to Dolly and Stiva.

  11. Alexandra Siega says:

    Emily, I’m going to take a bit of a different turn…

    During our Tuesday discussion, Professor Beyer attributed Tolstoy’s works as “larger than life”; now, I truly understand what that means in the context of Anna Karenina. Here, Tolstoy crams in as many dramatic turns as possible, many of them that pull at the heart strings so much that the effect is overwhelming.

    If I were to sum up these two middle chapters of Anna Karenina, I would ironically choose the words “beginning” and “ending.” There are many beginnings; Kitty and Levin, for example, are about to embark on a mutually loving, adorable, happy pastoral life together. Anna gives birth to a baby girl, interestingly and sadly also named Anna— will she be doomed in a similar fashion to lead the life of her mother? Karenin is finally able to forgive Anna, and start anew by doting on the baby. On the other side of the spectrum there are those that contemplate death, like Levin, who turns to such thoughts as a result of the presence of his dying brother, Nikolai. Vronsky not only attempts to kill himself but also leaves his post as an officer, essentially murdering his career. However, the characters that come in contact with death are propelled to a new beginning, with Vronksy about to leave the country with Anna, and Levin about to marry the love of his life: more evidence of the cyclical nature of the novel. Interestingly, the only story that stays relatively stagnant is Stiva and Dolly’s story: the first relationship with which we were presented.

    Returning to the point of Anna Karenina as a story “larger than life”, do you feel that in taking drama to its extreme Tolstoy’s work is still realistic, as it seemed to be (for me) during the first two books? If not, is life really as mundane as you think it is, free from the drama that Tolstoy presents on the level of the ordinary man? Or is Tolstoy merely creating a glorified, 19th century tabloid or soap opera for Russian high society?

  12. Emily de Koning says:

    Stiva has cheated on his wife Dolly with the French governess; their marriage is on the brink of collapse. Levin returns to Moscow to propose to Kitty. Stiva warns Levin of his rival Vronsky. Kitty is aware of Levin’s affections but has fallen for Vronsky. Levin proposes to Kitty, and is refused. Vronsky and Stiva meet at the station. Vronsky is there to pick up his mother and Stiva is there to pick up Anna; both are coming from Petersburg. Vronsky and Anna meet for the first time. Anna reconciles Dolly and Stiva, saving their marriage for the time being. At the ball Vronsky and Kitty dance and Kitty realizes that Vronsky has fallen for Anna. Levin goes to visit his brother Nikolai, who has become a pathetic fallen man. Levin leaves Moscow for his country estate. Anna leaves Moscow for Petersburg and is followed by Vronsky.

    Kitty falls ill as a result of her heartbreak over Vronsky. Dolly tries to comfort Kitty, the sisters argue but reconcile quickly. Kitty stays with Dolly before leaving to go abroad. In Petersburg, Anna is being openly pursued by Vronsky, who is still completely infatuated with her. Anna eventually gives in to his advances. At princess Betsy’s party, Vronsky, Anna and her husband Alexei are together, which makes all of the other guests uncomfortable. Alexei confronts Anna about her behavior with Vronsky at the party but she denies his accusations. Alexei realizes that his relationship with his wife has changed and that he is powerless to do anything about it. (Fast-forward a year) Anna and Vronsky have been together for a year now. Anna is incredibly conflicted and ashamed over their relationship. Levin has spent the winter in the countryside, still thinking about Kitty’s refusal. Levin makes preparations for the spring. Stiva visits Levin to go hunting. They discuss Kitty and Levin learns of Kitty’s illness. Stiva and Levin argue over the sale of Stiva’s (or actually Dolly’s) woods. We learn that Vronsky is in financial strain because his mother cut him off as a result of her disapproval over Vronsky’s relationship with Anna. Vronsky before his race goes to visit Anna. Anna tells him that she is pregnant. Vronsky tries to convince Anna to runaway with him but she refuses, thinking that she cannot abandon her son.

    I did my best to abbreviate the chaos but I’ve already gone 85 words over the limit and I’m only at chapter XXIII of book 2! Does anyone want to keep going where I stopped? I could go all the way to the end of book four but I would need another 400 words at least…

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