Monday, March 3, 2008

Life, Death, and Vodka

No wonder the Russians drink a lot of vodka...if Tolstoy's any indication it's because they're always dealing with life and death issues, such as life and death.  For instance...Levin and Kitty get married, and are happily in love.  Well, sort of, anyway.  Much to their amazement, they find themselves occasionally having arguments and disagreements.  For instance, Levin gets lost on his way home from the fields after unsuccessfully trying to take short cut, and Kitty gets all bent out of shape wondering where he's been when he finally arrives home 30 minutes late.  So they fight and then make up.  It's cute, in a way, but so true to life.  Tolstoy builds up their love to the highest levels, so that they're both completely ecstatic before and during the wedding, and then afterwards it's "welcome to reality" time.  They still love one another dearly, but they're finding out that marriage is not all cloud-like bliss.  Not only do they fight, but Levin finds that Kitty seems to have thoughts and aspirations of her own (what's with that, anyway?) and he's not finding the time and motivation to write his book on how to improve Russian agriculture.  And then the telegram's from his crazy brother's ex-prostitute girlfriend, who tells him his brother is on his deathbed from TB.  So Levin tells Kitty he must leave immediately to go to his brother's side, and Kitty has the gall to tell him she' s coming too.  Levin is totally pissed...she can't possibly come, because, well, frankly I don't really understand his reasoning.  For one thing he doesn't want his wife to be in the same room as an ex-prostitute, and for another, well, it's unclear.  I guess dying is a MAN's job.  Anyway, naturally Kitty wins the argument and they set off.  When they arrive at his brother's hotel, and go see him Levin is totally freaked out and doesn't know what to do.  So what happens?  Yep...Kitty immediately takes over the situation, and comforts and takes care of his brother in ways that are beyond Levin's comprehension (all with the help of the ex-prostitute).  Levin is blown away, and admits as much to Kitty.  He's astounded by her.  And this is what is so admirable about the guy...he may get a little crazy sometimes, but he always seems to realize it and admit he's wrong afterwards.  Anyway, the brother gets sicker and sicker.  And meanwhile, Kitty starts to get sick.  Then the brother dies in a long, lingering, painful death scene.  Then, just three paragraphs later, the doctor takes another look at Kitty and finds out what's wrong with her...she's pregnant.  This is why Tolstoy is so life ends, horribly, and immediately another one begins.  We're taken from despair and death back to love and life all on the same page.  Life goes on.  Hooray life!

Meanwhile, all hell has broken loose with Anna.  She sends a message to her estranged husband, telling him she's dying.  He thinks at first it's a joke, but then realizes it can't be.  So he rushes to her side, finds she's just given birth to Vronsky's daughter, and is now dying with fever.  He is overcome, and at that moment completely forgives her.  I mean, he really does...he's quite sincere.  And Anna seems to love him back for forgiving her.  Unexpectedly she does not die, and is soon better.  Vronsky is not, though, as he shot himself in the chest in despair over Anna.  Lucky for him it wasn't fatal, and he's quickly back to health.  Anyway, Anna, now all better, realizes that, oops, she didn't learn to love her husband again after all, and once again the sight of him sickens her.  But her husband really has forgiven her, and tells her she can be with Vronsky if she likes, as long as she keeps up appearances for the sake of propriety.  He'll do whatever she wants...get divorced, or not, or whatever.  I said before he was a dick, but now he's changed...he's shown a good side.  A Christian side...turn the other cheek, etc.  So Anna says she wants a divorce, but then just takes off with Vronsky, who resigns his military position,  and they go to Italy.  They rent a villa, and live in a lover's bliss, in exhile in Italy where no one cares about who they are or who's married to whom...ahhhh.  Or maybe not so blissful.  Now that Vronsky has all he's desired, he starts to miss desiring something.  So after he makes a half-hearted stab at taking up painting, they decide to return to Russia.  Somehow I have a feeling that's not going to work out so well.

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