?

Log in

No account? Create an account
jude

Realizing that he was unable to understand it, he became bored

Been wanting to get some more thoughts on Anna Karenina down for several days now, but just can't seem to get myself together.

I've realized that the Anna focused sections are becoming rather intimidating for me; before I get to one, I feel like it will be a big task to read it, and after I finish, I feel like I can't go on to the next until I really *understand* it, as if it were, in some way, deeper or more difficult than the other sections.  I don't think the Anna parts are harder, but I do think she's more opaque generally, we know so much less about her, and there's something... frustratingly hard to pin down, so it's like I have to reread each of her bits for clues.  Plus, while the Levin sections ramble on, hers are more compact.  Denser.

It's weird that I feel the need to re-read to get *everything* out of her pages, because the text can be very straightforward about her:

"'He has the right to go off wherever and whenever he wants.  Not only to go off but to abandon me.  He has all the rights and I have none.  But, knowing that, he shouldn't have done it.  And yet what did he do? ...He looked at me with a cold, stern expression.  Of course, that is undefinable, intangible, but it wasn't so before, and that look means a lot,' she thought. 'That look shows that the cooling off has begun.'

"And though she was convinced that the cooling off had begun, still there was nothing she could do, she could not change anything in her relations with him.  Just as before, she could only try to keep him by her love and her attractiveness.  And as before, by being occupied during the day and taking morphine at night, she could stifle the terrible thoughts of what would happen if he stopped loving her." (Part Six, Chapter XXXII, page 666, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation)

Also, while I know I mentioned it the last time I wrote up my thoughts, I think the quote about being unable to change her situation and thus not wanting to think about it is quite telling and separates her from everyone else.

"I love only these two beings [Vronsky and her son Seryozha], and the one excludes the other. I can’t unite them, yet I need only that. And if there isn’t that, the rest makes no difference. It all makes no difference. And it will end somehow, and so I can’t, I don’t like talking about it. Don’t reproach me, then, don’t judge me for anything." (p 640)

So much of the book seems to be about people's distractions from their own worries, the ways that they devise to make them think they have control over their lives, both on an individual level, and a larger level.  Levin has recognized, through experience, that much of politics is a sham, and so are the various attempts at social improvements; people who have less experience but more idealism, like his brother, condemn him for this irresponsible opinion, but there is little evidence that Levin is wrong, that anyone's idealism works.  Mostly people talk, but don't accomplish, and their ideas sound better than they work in practice.  Levin is guilty of this too, in his farming.  And of course for most of the first half of the book he is continuously coming up with plans to improve his life and become happy, but this is impossible for him until he marries Kitty.  Even then, he still wants things to do.  I understand this very well, as I feel similarly; I am constantly searching for ways to spend my time that make me feel accomplished, and I always feel that I am so close to discovering the Meaningful Activity that will make me feel properly good about myself.

There is much mocking of people for having hypocritical views or for expounding opinions that they cannot back up.  But even conversations are imperfect; people misunderstand each other; they prefer to talk than to listen; and often, discussions become boring.  Example: pretty much everything that happens during Levin's day in the city at the beginning of Part Seven.  Also, to a lesser extent, the elections:

"Levin, leaning on the balustrade, looked and listened.  At first he was surprised and wanted to understand what it meant; then, realizing that he was unable to understand it, he became bored.  Then, remembering the agitation and anger he had seen on all the faces, he felt sad." (page 661)

Sometimes I feel like Anna is just too smart for this bullshit that consumes everyone else.  She's clearly incredibly intelligent (Vronsky comes to her for answers to his questions; she's well read in all topics), and she knows how to get on with people very well (Kitty falls for her because she is perfect and radiant; she is in control of dinner conversations; she does well with new people) at least in a superficial way.  But then there is this inner life that no one understands and few people get to see.  I say, hesitantly, that she is bad at deceiving herself.  (I'm not too sure of this statement.)  But I would rather be Levin, or one of the other characters, than Anna.  She has so few places to hide from her unhappiness.

Comments