Sunday, March 9, 2008

This is a Long Novel

Damn, this book is LONG!  I've still got another 200 or so pages to go.  Fortunately I'm enjoying it a lot, and I think I will miss it once it's over...that's a problem with reading a long book like this one.

Levin and Kitty are doing well.  Dolly (Kitty's sister, who's also Stiva's wife) and her children have come to stay for the summer.  Levin's not entirely happy with this, but since it makes Kitty happy then he's OK.  Later Stiva comes to visit and brings a friend, a young aristocratic gentleman.  Levin is willing to overlook the guy's running his horse and carriage into the mud while on a hunting trip, and he forgives him when he accidently discharges his gun while inside the carriage (fortunately no one was hurt), but when he starts flirting with Kitty...well, Levin will have NONE of that!  Both he and Kitty are uncomfortable by this, so he kicks the guy out of his house, which we are made to understand is not the really socially acceptable thing to do to a guest.  But Levin doesn't care, and the guy is thrown out.  I gotta love that Levin's got such balls, but on the other hand why is he so crazy jealous?  He knows Kitty loves him like mad, and yet he continually stumbles across doubts (as she does too once in awhile).

Meanwhile, Anna and Vronsky return to Moscow, and Anna goes to the theatre (big mistake).  There, as a married woman shacking up with a man who's not her husband, she is publicly scorned by her old "friends".  She and Vronsky decide they can't stay in Moscow, and so they move out to Vronsky's country estate.  Once there, in order to busy himself, Vronsky sets out to make all sorts of improvements, and to set up a hospital for the peasants.  It's not clear if Anna is happy.  She says she is to Dolly when she visits, but it's not entirely clear whether she means it.  And we do know that she misses her son terribly...she got to see him briefly in Moscow, when she snuck into the house, but it's clear she misses him.  And Vronsky is bummed that she's not divorced because that way any kids she has with him will legally be her husband's.

A theme of this book, which reminds me of Main Street, is the pressure of society to conform.  Anna is completely ostracized by society, with the exception of a few friends, for leaving her husband...for not fulfilling the duties that society says she must fulfill.  This societal pressure still exists in America, as anyone who's ever been to high school can attest, but it was clearly much greater back in the day of more rigid class structures.  Too bad.  Anna and Vronsky's love can be so great and powerful, and yet pursuing it has ruined them socially.  What is the price of true love, and why the hell should anyone have to pay this price anyway...I mean, isn't it supposed to be all about love?  In fact, Dolly has some of these same thoughts as she goes to visit the couple...she finds herself admiring them for having the balls to pursue their love with a "society be damned" attitude.  Which indeed does seem admirable...although Anna's son now has to grow up without a mother that he loves dearly.  Collateral damage, I guess.

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