Anna Karenina

Cinema: Screen Adaptation of Anna Karenina

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Introduction

Screen adaptations of literary works have always been a popular film genre throughout the world and some of the greatest films have been based on famous literary pieces, most commonly novels. The most common debates or discussions that could have been occurred during that were about the notions of a specificity and fidelity. Specificity is an idea where film shares the same individual material and structure as the literature which separates and distinguish them from other practices. In comparison to specificity, fidelity is the notion which simply shows the accuracy of movie that has been created on a piece of literature.

Screen adaptation always was and still is one of the most complicated things to do. The goal is to adapt the piece of literature faithfully and accurately as a movie, because that is also a picture of the imagination which will always be the approximation to the original text. In addition, there are various structures that strengthen the differences between the literature and its screen adaptation, structures such as production technologies. The level that shows how faithful is the film or the adaptation to the original literary work is also the indicator to the strength of the film, which shows how clear the literature was transformed and pictured as a film. Those indicators can be either the textual styles, or the voices, also cast and plots. In the ex-Soviet Union and in Russia a special attention has been accorded to Russian classics of the XIX century by such authors as Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoevskij, Lermontov, Chekhov. One of the main characteristics of most of these adaptations was their fidelity to the source material. The films thereby provided loyal cinematic illustrations of the well-known literary works. The tradition of screen adaptations continues into the last decades of the Soviet State and into the post-Soviet age. The 90s see several adaptations, which, differently from the previous periods, update their XIX century subject matter to modern Russia, proving that old texts can say something that has a meaning about Russia even hundred years later. In the last two decades, the adaptations of Russian classics of the XIX and XX centuries have moved from cinema screens to TV screens. With more than 30 cinematic adaptations produced through the years, Anna Karenina is undeniably a favorite of world screen media. The first silent adaptation of the novel appeared in 1911, just one year after Tolstoy’s death, while the last one was released by Joe Wright in 2012. In the interim, numerous other versions have been produced.

Anna Karenina by Alexander Zarkhi

First let us analyse the adaptation of Aleksander Zakhir on Leo Tolstoy’s novel “Anna Karenina”. This adaptation is the most famous one, moreover, the most celebrated one of Tolstoy’s novel in Russia. The film stars some of the most popular Soviet actors of those times. Furthermore, the role for countess Betsy Tverskaya played world-known Russian ballerina Maya Plisetskaya. The main and the lead role for Anna Karenina played Tatyana Samoylova, who is the perfect actress for Anna and gained the sympathy of audience of many Russians. The soundtrack for the film was written by a famous Russian composer Rodion Schedrin.

As mentioned by the associate Professor at The Ohio State University, Alexander Burry, who is also an author of Multi-Mediated Dostoevski (transporting novels into Opera, Film or Drama), nearly all directors simply reduce the novel to the Anna plot, ignoring or minimizing Levin. However, Zarkhi, tried to incorporate Levin more fully into the film. Nevertheless, doing so results in what could best be termed a collection of scenes from “Anna Karenina”. In the movie, we can see how one part quickly moves to the next part, which including in each just the main lines of dialogue and making quick, frequent, and jarring cuts. An example of this is opening scene, with the conversation of Stiva and Dolly about the unfaithfulness, which is then followed by the discussion with Levin about Kitty. All this was made without any transition. The film also draws together various threads of the novel in the scene when Anna meets Levin. During their conversation, her comments on her desperate need for love intersect with Levin’s own suicidal thoughts, along with the narrator’s more general commentary on marital relations. Viewers may not find this comparison effective, however, it is a valiant attempt to make the film about Levin as well as Anna.

Besides its great casting, acting and the camera works this adaptation has other parts to like, such as the music who was written with the leading Soviet and post-Soviet composer Rodion Shchedrin. Here in this film the music creates connection between the scenes, and this happened sometimes with the help of motifs. The clarinet theme, which was a little bit strange, is followed by a staccato motif in the trumpets in the train station scene when Anna passes Vronsky. This same scene appears again when Anna sees Vronsky at the Shcherbatskys’, however, this time music was with the strings. This music, along with the parallel shots of Anna standing on stairs above Vronsky, links the two unexpected meetings.

Then it comes the Ball scene with the waltz which is seemed to be cheerful, however, as the music becomes tempo and dissonance, it quickly transforms to something which is terrifying. The ball in the film rationalizes the action from the equivalent scene in the novel, but Shchedrin’s music faithfully preserves the essential sense of discontinuity that is the keynote of the scene as read (Kitty and Vronsky starting their dance as the music stops, or Kitty somehow “hearing” Anna and Vronsky’s conversation): by being neither a realistic representation of the music actually played at the ball, nor an expressionistic portrayal of Kitty’s emotional state, but something in between, it perfectly mirrors Tolstoy’s free indirect discourse, his subliminal imitation.

Anna Karenina by Joe Wright

This is the 2012 British adaptation of Tolstoy’s Novel, which was based on the script written by Tom Stoppard. This film earned four nominations at the 85th Academy Awards and six nominations at the 66th British Academy Film Awards. Jacqueline Durran won both prizes for Best Costume Design. This “Anna Karenina” film stars in lead roles Keira Knightley, Aaron Johnson and Jude Law.

Yuri Corrigan, the Assistant Professor of Russian & Comparative Literature, mentioned that one of Tolstoy’s brilliant observations about Anna is the way she poses as the traditional romantic heroine; torn between duty and passions, as a way of easing her guilt and uncertainty over leaving her husband and son; that is, since the dictates of her chosen genre clearly state that Karenin must be unlovable and cruel. Keira Knightley, who plays Anna in Joe Wright’s adaptation, seems to be a girl who is programmed to miss Vronsky, however, all actors give the performance on the highest level, and visual poetry that portrayed Joe Wright was beautiful.

Thoughts about simplicity, obedience, rebellion and authenticity which Tolstoy tried to picture are folded and placed in two boxes by the script of Tom Stoppard. He pictures duty to be bad and the passion of Anna as a good thing. Consequently, we have the result of what the Russian society was morally strict.

Conclusion

It is hard to adapt any novel, especially the ones which have high demands and are well known to many people, as each who read a novel has his/her own imagination of what is happening in it and pictures that in the way which is best for him/her. This means that it will be hard for the filmmaker to find all possible solutions and combine them in one. Adaptations of “Anna Karenina” can always unfold new details about the novel, helping us to unmask our own critical prejudice about characters. All in all, although critics agree that this novel by Tolstoy is challenging to adapt, their remarks also suggest that this challenge may be exactly what makes the novel so attractive to directors.

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Anna Karenina. Narrative Structure in Chapter Eleven

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Close Reading of Narrative Structure in Chapter XI of Anna Karenina

Until this point, chapters focusing on the development of their relationship have been narratively situated in the singular voices of Anna (I-XXX, II-IV) or Vronsky (I-XVIII, I-XXXI), but the voice of this passage alternates between their viewpoints, in some places stopping ambiguously between them. This is the second instance of this structure in the text so far, having previously been employed in II-VII with a transition from Anna’s reflections on her speech and actions to Vronsky’s interior monologue response: “She exerted all the powers of her mind . . . ‘This is it!’ he thought with rapture” (127). Apart from that brief moment, though, this passage in II-XI marks the first substantial instance of Tolstoy directly comparing Anna’s and Vronsky’s inner thoughts and feelings.

The passage opens with a view of each character’s inner state, giving equal authority to the two by presenting them with identical language, in the same sentence. Both Vronsky and Anna see “that which . . . had been” weighing on their consciences – the inevitable consummation of their affair – come to pass, and they judge it according to their individual expectations (135). The linguistic parallel gives these divergent views of the same act the same narrative weight. This indicates to the reader that the adulterers’ sexual urges can be equally judged as both a monomaniacal “desire” and an impossible “dream of happiness.” While the adultery is explicitly said to be shameful to both perpetrators, the narrator’s depiction of the shame from two perspectives, without one given more legitimacy over the other, introduces some amount of moral relativism to their plight. Tolstoy certainly does not imply that extra-marital sex is defensible, but his commitment to depicting it with two distinct sets of opinions keeps the morality of the outcome of their affair more open than it could be otherwise.

Vronsky’s perspective follows in the second sentence, as indicated by two factors. First, there is a motif, his “trembling lower jaw,” that is found next in chapters situated in Vronsky’s frame of reference (II-XXIV 177, II-XXV 182). Through this scene and the disastrous horse race, the twitching mouth becomes a symbol of guilt. It will be interesting to see whether this remains a habit of Vronsky’s alone, or whether other guilty parties are indicated by this narrative device. Second, the narrator tells us how he feels about his actions: “he stood over her, entreating her to be calm, himself not knowing how or why.” Vronsky’s perspective, established in the previous sentence as an unwavering commitment to his sinning, is expanded to include conscious doubt and physically-manifested guilt, without necessarily overruling his former passion. Tolstoy thus introduces psychological complexity to a situation that at first appeared to be a simple of matter of wrongdoing and remorse.

After another sentence of Vronsky’s dialogue, but before we see into Anna’s head, there are two sentences describing Anna’s actions from an ambiguous point of view. The signifier here is “her once proud, bright, but now shame-stricken head.” Attention has previously been drawn to Anna’s luminous features, but it has been accompanied by interior feelings of both characters. In I-XVIII, “Vronsky had time to notice the subdued animation that enlivened her face” after he is said to have “felt compelled to have another look at her” (56). In II-IX, it is said that “[Anna’s] face shone with a vivid glow” before the descriptive text gives way to an interior monologue provoked by her feelings of falsehood (132). Therefore, we cannot definitively attribute this piece of the text to a single character’s bias. But because there is still a moral judgment made by the depiction of Anna’s body as “shame-stricken” and in need of upholding, we have to assume it has a source. We could assume it is a continuation from Vronsky’s perspective in the previous sentences, or that it is a transition into Anna’s in the next. Or we could treat it as a moment dissimilar from the rest of the novel, as an example of the omniscient narrator passing judgment on its subjects. These three interpretations that attribute the morality of the scene to a single voice are countered, however, by further evidence in the passage which suggests a generalized judgment of these character’s actions by the text as a whole.

The penultimate paragraph starts in Anna’s perspective, following her dialogue into her feelings of guilt, then crosses back into Vronsky’s when he is said to feel “what a murderer must feel” (135). The narrative center comes back to Anna with “the shame she felt at her spiritual nakedness,” but is made ambiguous again when this “nakedness communicated itself to [Vronsky].” This narrative voice is ambiguous because what starts as a notion developed within one character’s mind is transferred, without dialogue, into the emotional outlook of the other character. Furthermore, Anna’s idea of “spiritual nakedness” parallels Vronsky’s unspoken conception of her “spiritual beauty” earlier in the novel (II-VII 126). What we have here is one point of view expressed by two characters simultaneously, conveyed by an impartial third-person voice that switches between their perspectives mid-sentence. Analysis of this last perspective shows that this polyphonic muddling coincides with a generalization of the passage’s themes.

After Vronsky picks up what is “communicated” to him, the text continues in his mindset of homicidal guilt. But the language used to describe this point of view is modified, it refers abstractly to “the murderer,” his horror, and his violent actions, placing them in parallel to Vronsky’s anxiety and actions. Tolstoy opens up the metaphorical framework that his character has invented, shifting from Vronsky’s view of himself feeling like a murderer, to the external narrator’s view of Vronsky acting like a murderer. Tolstoy solidifies the thematic connection between sex and violence in Vronsky’s character, while also generalizing that connection as a device to encompass more than just this particular character’s situation. The implication is that the text, not just the character, can define adultery in this way, as a horrific act of violence. But, as suggested earlier, this is just one among many definitions the text introduces for Anna and Vronsky’s relationship.

As narrative voices overlap, varying levels of the shame expressed toward illegitimate love, from psychological distress, to physical revulsion, and finally to criminal culpability, are articulated holistically by Tolstoy and his creations. Because, in the end, no lone voice silences the others, this passage instills the possibility that the novel could thematically pursue any facet of this theme of shame. The combination of narrative ambiguity and unambiguous moral judgments teaches the reader to be receptive to messages coming from the text, but to avoid a one-dimensional acceptance of their conclusiveness.

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Anna Karenina and Love in a Time of Cholera: Common Themes

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Tainted Love

Love is depicted as a fairy-tale. There is always a prince who saves the girl from a life of misery and the two live happily-ever-after. Fortunately, there are authors out there who give the readers more of a plot-twist on the traditional love story and make it interesting. Leo Tolstoy and Gabrial Garcia Marquez have written stories about traditional love with the not-so-average characters and plot lines. Tolstoy and Marquez have very different backgrounds, their stories of Anna Karenina and Love in the time of Cholera have the same universal constant of what love is. Anna Karenina and Love in the time of Cholera depict a constant, sickening, love.

Anna Karenina is a modern woman in Russia that is at first accepted in her society as a high-class married woman. She has a child and seems content in the place in life where she is currently at. She is a high society woman and has all her eggs in one basket. Then her world is flipped upside down when she meets Vronksy and starts an affair with him. Anna gets so deeply involved in the affair with Vronksy that she is more than willing to leave her content life behind and even her child to live with a man who had not seemed to love her as much.

Anna Karenina’s random love affair is not what is based on the usual and traditional love story. Her stagnant marriage with Karenin and life with him is what the traditional love story comes to play in this role. Joshua Rothman of the New Yorker had analyzed that “Tolstoy…was thinking about love in a different way: as a kind of fate, or curse, or judgment, and as a vector by which the universe distributes happiness and unhappiness, unfairly and apparently at random” (2012). The story of Anna Karenina and her fate is not so random, though her madness and jealousy had led her to commit suicide.

Anna gave up everything she had ever known for a real chance at love. She wanted love and be loved in return. Anna is naiive and “[she] does bad things, but often only because she underestimates just how bad the consequences of those things will be” (Rothman). Her relationship with Vronksy is highly toxic not only because it broke whatever commitment she made to Karenin, her husband, but because “that nothing good came out of the romance” (Rothman). Anna’s affair with Vronksy is a sickening love because of how poisonous their relationship was. The affair had caused lives to be ruined, heartbreaks, and eventually the suicide of Anna Karenina herself.

Love in the Time of Cholera depicts love as sickening in a different way than Anna Karenina did. Florentino and Fermina fall in love at a young age. The story starts out of what seems like a sappy love story. They planned on being together forever and marrying, then Fermina grows up and is suddenly not interested in Florentino anymore. The process of her falling out of love is quick and abrupt and the real reason is never clarified. The part where the story turns to a tainted version is when Florentino just stalks Fermina for about fifty years until she is widowed and lonely and settles so she doesn’t have to be.

In those years, Florentino would be at every public event he knew that Fermina would be at so he could catch even the slightest glimpse of her presence. He wanted to save himself for when he finally is with the love of his life but precisely fails when he has affairs with many, many women while stalking Fermina. The title of cholera plays a role in this story because love is symbolized a lot with disease. When “Florentino falls madly in love, his symptoms match those of cholera however, Florentino resigns himself to ride out the symptoms and refuses to seek relief” (Smith, 4).

Florentino’s life-long obsession with Fermina is unhealthy, especially when compared to the symptoms of a fatal disease. He does not wish nor try to be cured of his overwhelming love for Fermina, but merely treats the empty voids in his life with countless women. Florentino and Fermina end up together and then their stories are cut off to the readers of them being both quarantined on a boat that is infected with cholera.

Conclusively, the two very different love stories still have the same concept about love. The love portrayed in Anna Karenina is tainted in the reasons that her sacrifices for love were very consequential. She had lost everything she was accustomed too. She had even lost herself because of the very man she left everything for did not love her in return. The love that was depicted in Love in the Time of Cholera was one that was sickening both physically and psychologically. Florentino’s love for Fermina had the same symptoms of cholera but refused to receive any help because he did not want to be helped. Based on these two stories, love is not something that is shaped by time and culture. Even in the 1800s of Russia, when people wanted to marry for love it was something that was not socially acceptable if the person is someone of lower standards. Love is not the fairy-tale story that every little girl dreams to have one day. Love is something that is understood under all languages, making it a constant symbol universally. In the case of these two stories, based on two different backgrounds, love is a sickening disease that nobody is saved from.

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Anna Karenina. Analysis of The First Meeting of Anna and Vronsky

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Lust at First Sight

Leo Tolstoy is perhaps one of the greatest writers of western civilization, and his epic Anna Karenina is no exception. An intricate novel filled with symbolism, character depth, and enough complex literary technique to make any english teacher squeal with delight, one of the fundamentals that makes this novel so good is the fact that everything has something important to it. Every single scene in this book means something, whether it is where Anna consummates her affair or when Stiva hugs his children. The scene I chose is fairly simple: Anna meets Vronsky for the first time. Even though no major interactions occur, the simple occurrence of Vronsky and Anna having a polite conversation leads to major foreshadowing and character breakdown.

Now, this scene directly precedes the train death scene, where much may be learned from Vronsky’s character, but I chose this scene, where Anna meets Vronsky, simply because it gives us more of an overall view of the mayhem about to ensue. Without knowing anything about the storyline past here, looking at this three page segment gives it all away. The moment Vronsky lays eyes on Anna, we can tell he is absolutely enthralled. Not in a joyous fangirl-esque captivation, but in typical Vronsky style a mildly amused, yet amorously attentive at the enigmatic woman who just walked by him.. Even though not much has been explained about him so far in the saga, this scene shows his character. He can’t take his eyes off of Anna, and she notices this, yet he remains with a calm, almost cold expression. We see how Vronsky is reserved in his actions, and coolly polite. His conversation with his mother seems almost forced, and he simply approaches the conversation to learn who the woman he just gazed upon was, as he is basically watching/listening to Anna outside while talking to his mother.

Vronsky immediately takes to Anna, but it appears that Anna only considered Vronsky after noticing his expression. Anna is described as a woman with a certain charm, whether it is social, physical, or simply unexplainable. She walks around with a light in her eyes, and a trace of a smile, appearing enigmatic while poised and elegant. As Vronsky watches Anna, she notices this and suddenly makes her face seem colder, but as Tolstoy describes, “She deliberately extinguished the light in her eyes, but it shone against her will in a barely noticeable smile”(61). Thus, it seems that Anna notices the effect she has on others, and takes pleasure from it, yet encountering Vronsky gives her a spark that others do not give her. Later on, whilst talking with both Vronsky and his mother, Anna stealthily flashes smiles at Vronsky, as well as giving him her hand to kiss before leaving. From this, we see that this scene is a mockery of love at first sight, where little love is prevalent, and the two simply cannot have a happy ending.

And thus, from what we know of the story so far, Anna and Vronsky are simply infatuated with each other. Anna has some desire that her lifestyle cannot quench, and Vronsky can sate it. While some may see their instant chemistry as love at first sight, i only see it as lust at first sight, where the two simply need some chemistry in their lives. Vronsky is a man who has been living a textbook life, and Anna is a woman who has lead a life too perfect to the point of boredom. What the two lack in their fulfilling lives, they find in each other.

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The Implications of the Near-death Experience by Anna During Labor

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

The idea of seeing a widely loved, magnificent woman go from the envy of St. Petersburg to the deranged, self-obsessed person that made the rash decision to jump underneath a train to get revenge on her husband sounds like a crazy thought. Knowing this, it is important to note that Anna’s suicide in Anna Karenina was no spur of the moment idea. Throughout the later parts of the novel, there is a noticeable decline in Anna’s mental health, leading her to her untimely death. This gives way to the question of just how a woman who had it all developed such angry, vengeful thoughts, and later actions. While these thoughts were not all directed at herself, they were the final straw in her decision to end her life. Although the exact origin of these thoughts and feelings of hers is unknown, it is fairly easy to make an educated guess. In Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, the scene in which Anna nearly dies in labor acts as a turning point for her mental health, eventually leading to her untimely demise.

The decline in Anna’s mental health after the delivery of her second child, Annie, can be seen in people’s first impressions of her before her near-death experience, as opposed to after. Prior to this event, Anna was a kind, loving woman who was highly regarded by everyone who met her. In fact, in Part I, when Countess Vronsky first meets Anna, she states, “As an old woman all I can do is tell you straight out that I’ve fallen in love with you” (Tolstoy 75). This shows how easily people can fall for the charming personality Anna possessed before her near-death experience. While people who meet Anna for the first time after she has Annie still feel the same feelings of adoration for her, they also get an idea of the emotionally drained, tortured soul that lies within. In Part VII, just after meeting Anna for the first time, Levin thinks, “What a wonderful, sweet, pathetic woman….” (Tolstoy 839). This clearly shows that Anna has developed feelings within herself that have become so overpowering that they now overflow into her everyday life, making it so that people can feel her pain. Anna’s inner turmoil developed after the birth of Annie can be seen in the change in people’s initial opinions of her both before and after the event.

Another situation that shows Anna’s mental health decline after the birth of her daughter is the change in the nature of her relationship with Vronsky. Before she became pregnant with Annie, Anna and Vronsky were more concerned with the relationship at hand. They were completely in love, and did not keep it a secret from anyone. In Part II, when Anna and Karenin are on their way back from the horse races, Anna admits, “I’m listening to you and thinking about him. I love him, I’m his mistress, I can’t bear it, I’m afraid- I hate you… You can do whatever you like with me” (Tolstoy 254). This shows Anna’s extreme commitment to Vronsky after they have sex for the first time. While it seems as though their relationship will last a lifetime, as it was based purely on love, that is far from true. Once Anna gives birth to Annie, and nearly dies in the process, her way of thinking about her relationship begins to change, as does his. In Part VI, shortly after Anna has recovered from her near-death experience, Vronsky realizes, “She was completely different now from what she had been when he saw her first. Both morally and physically she had changed for the worst” (Tolstoy 431). This reveals that Vronsky has noticed the new changes in Anna. She is mean, spiteful, and jealous, and he does not like what she has turned into. Also in Part IV, Chapter III, Vronsky thinks, “These attacks of jealousy that had recently been coming over her more and more often horrified him; no matter how he tried to hide this they made him feel colder toward her, in spite of his knowing that the reason for her jealousy was her love for him” (Tolstoy 431). This explicitly shows that Vronsky’s feelings towards Anna have changed now that her mental health is taking a turn for the worst. Because of the birth of Annie, Anna and Vronsky’s relationship is no longer centered around their love for each other, but around their underlying problems with each other that will continue to get worse and worse until Anna decides that she is going to commit suicide as the ultimate form of revenge against Vronsky. The change in the nature of Anna and Vronsky’s relationship after the birth of Annie reflects the decline in Anna’s mental health after her near-death experience.

In Anna Karenina, the topic of Anna’s suicide is one that weighs heavier on the heart. It can be argued that the emotional break that caused her to jump underneath the train on that fateful day could be foreshadowed by her witnessing the peasant dying by getting run over by the train in Part I. While this event may have had a profound effect on her emotionally, it seems as though this idea had been formulated much earlier than right when she saw the freight train arrive at the station in Part VII. The decline in her mental health after the near-death experience she has after the birth of her daughter reveals the fact that her suicide was not a rash decision. Her decision to jump underneath the train was one of anger and revenge, an action produced by the thoughts she begins to have after looking death in the face. In Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, the scene where Anna nearly dies in labor causes a sharp decline in her mental health, eventually leading to her untimely death.

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The perfect woman for Tolstoy as illustrated in Anna Karenina

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

“All happy families are alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” (1.1.1)

In this famed first sentence of Anna Karenina, Tolstoy alludes to the two kinds of familial happiness, almost comically simplifying the idea of ‘family’. However, this formula cannot be tested because the families in Anna Karenina are not happy families, and the reader is treated to people nearly broken by adultery and scandal. Tolstoy presents the Oblonskys’ plight as lighter because the adulterer is male, suggesting that the success of a family depends on the wife’s immobility, not the husband’s. Though Stiva, Vronsky, and Karenin divide their time between their home and their amusements, women (like Dolly) must make home the focal point of their lives. However, Tolstoy emphasizes Anna Karenina’s animation when he introduces her in Chapter 18, and links her constant motion to her sexuality and independence outside the home. Tracing Tolstoy’s descriptions of Dolly Oblonsky and Anna Karenina throughout the novel reveals Tolstoy’s ‘ideal’ woman: one who unconditionally accepts both the pleasant and unpleasant aspects of her role as a mother and wife.

Anna Karenina begins with infidelity. Stepan Oblonsky enters his home to find, “his Dolly, forever fussing and worrying over household details…sitting perfectly still…looking at him with an expression of horror…” (1.1.3) Stiva’s wife is only mobile within the household and is fulfilled by ‘female’ occupations; only when he finds her sitting still does he know that something is wrong. Throughout Anna Karenina, Tolstoy is unforgiving in his description of Dolly’s mannerisms and appearance, describing her as “worn out, already growing elderly, no longer pretty, and in no way remarkable, in fact, quite an ordinary woman.” (1.1.6) Her physical appearance, her piety, and her inability to satiate her husband’s sexual desires define the sad life that Dolly lives. Tolstoy, while being sympathetic to Dolly’s plight, seems to approve of it. Her devotion to her children makes her an effective wife and mother, but her age and appearance hinder her from the happiness she seeks. Though heartbroken, Dolly says “I can’t leave [Stiva]: there are the children, and I am bound.” (1.19.67). Dolly is rendered immobile by her duties to her family and her home but, despite Stiva’s infidelity, Dolly quickly forgives her husband and returns to her domestic responsibilities. Tolstoy uses Dolly as a foil for Anna: in many ways, Dolly embodies the ‘perfect’ wife and mother in ways that Anna no longer can after her meeting Vronsky. Tolstoy uses Dolly to show the life that is available to women who are stationary, virtuous, and pathetic.

Presenting a contrast to the traits of Dolly Oblonsky, every aspect of Anna Karenina seems to come in abundance. Tolstoy writes that, “it was as if a surplus of something so overflowed her being that it expressed itself beyond her will, now in the brightness of her glance, now in her smile. She deliberately extinguished the light in her eyes, but it shone against her will in a barely noticeable smile.” (1.18.50) Anna comes in excess, characterized by a vitality and energy beyond her conscious control, and her constant motion speaks to her inherent sexuality. Unlike Dolly, her introduction to the novel is independent: for the first several chapters of Anna Karenina the reader gets to know her as simply Anna, not the wife or sister of someone or another. The cold stringency of Anna’s husband makes the reader root for Vronsky and Anna’s union, no matter the cost. But Tolstoy first expresses his disdain for and the imminent demise of Anna in Chapter 29, in which a watchman is run down by a train. He was “either too drunk or too bundled up because of the freezing cold” (1.29.81) to hear the incoming train, and is cleaved in half. This is the reader’s first hint that Vronsky and Anna’s story will read less like a love story and more like a tragedy. At a ball shortly before this train ride, Kitty describes Anna as “intoxicated with the delighted admiration she was exciting” (1.23.70) and high on Vronsky’s attention. Then, on the train, Anna “with her little deft hands…took out a cushion, laid it on her knees, and carefully wrapped up her feet.” (1.29.85) Tolstoy’s imagery suggests that this incident, paired with the scene on the train proves that Anna, just like the watchman, is both blind and deaf to her impending tragedy. Though loved by all for her motion, she does not yet realize that she is trapped between her passion for Vronsky and a society that shuns women who act on passions outside the home.

Though Tolstoy has certainly created a sympathetic character, he implies that Anna’s actions hold her accountable for her unhappiness upon returning home to her son and husband. Her sexuality and independence in Moscow has opened a door for her that cannot be closed. When she sees her son for the first time since returning from Moscow, Anna says that Seryozha “like her husband, aroused in [her] a feeling akin to disappointment.” (1.32.95) Unlike Dolly, she is unable to find contentment within the home. When it comes time to make love to her husband, “[Anna’s] face had none of the eagerness which, during her stay in Moscow, had fairly flashed from her eyes and her smile; on the contrary, now the fire seemed quenched in her, hidden somewhere far away.” (1.33.102). Compared to Dolly, Anna is no longer Tolstoy’s ideal woman because she seeks something beyond her life as a wife and mother.

Tolstoy’s ideal woman is evident in his treatment of female characters in Anna Karenina. Dolly’s choice to forgive her husband and dedicate herself to her home reflects the abdication of her happiness to a patriarchal double standard. This choice stands in sharp contrast to Anna’s growing dissatisfaction with her husband and child. Dolly Oblonsky is doomed to immobility within the home, while Anna is mobile yet headed towards death, scandal, and unhappiness. In treating Dolly as a foil for Anna, Tolstoy demonstrates his belief that women have no way out: they are perpetually trapped between the Madonna and the whore, and those women that lean too far towards the saintly Madonna (Dolly) and too far towards the passionate whore (Anna) are condemned to unhappiness. Thus, Tolstoy’s women demonstrate his belief that a woman who is not a loyal wife is nothing at all.

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The life on Anna Karenina in a transforming Russian landscape

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Though a majority of the characters in Leo Tolstoy’s momentous novel Anna Karenina are members of the nobility, the reforms Czar Alexander II put in place for the lower classes had profound effects on them. The time of his rule was an era of change for the Russian people because so many of his reforms had direct impacts on society. Some of these reforms included changes to the organization of Russian social classes, educational and farming reforms, and an enormous increase in urbanization (Riasanovsky 24-27).

Alexander II profoundly affected the everyday lives of his subjects and the lives of Russians in the generations after he fell from power. Perhaps his most important reform of Russian society was freeing the serfs in 1861. Serfdom was a form of slavery instituted in the early days of feudal Russian farming. Serfs would be bound to the land and owned by the land owner. This was a longstanding practice in Russia but the revolts of serfs were imminent when Alexander II took the throne. He worked for their freedom as soon as he came to power and after six years of hard work his emancipation law was signed. When they were finally freed, some stayed and worked the farms as they had done but with an increased freedom of mobility while others moved to cities (Eklof 19-28).

This abolition of serfdom had many effects on the nobility of Russia. In Anna Karenina, Levin and his friend Sviyazhsky get into a heated argument over the authority they should have as landowners over the muzhiks, the new workforce that formed after the serfs were emancipated (Bradley 143). Their arguments focus mainly on the topics of education for the newly freed people and how much control they should be subjected to, considering these workers were no longer legally theirs to control.

The education debate was indeed grounded in a reality dear to Tolstoy’s heart. He was personally responsible for opening schools for peasants and trying to increase literacy through the lower class as best he could (Souder). This idea of educating peasants is argued between Levin and Sviyazhsky with Sviyazhsky advocating their education and Levin supporting the status quo. “In Europe rational farming works because the peasantry are educated; which means that with us the peasantry have to be educated-that’s all… To educate the peasantry, three things are needed: schools, schools, and schools” (336). Levin objects to these arguments and offers a different point of view. “How will schools help the peasantry to improve their material well-being?” Levin asks Sviyazhsky. “You say that schools, education, will give them new needs. So much the worse, because they won’t be able to satisfy them” (337).

Throughout the novel, Tolstoy makes it evident to the reader that this was a time of farming reform. There was a decreased workforce for farming, seeing as many freed serfs went away to the cities, so the policies that had been in place during the feudal days had to be completely reimagined (Lewis 776). Europe was reforming their systems and straying from the feudal idea to a more modern system that made way for broader industrialization. The Russian people weren’t totally on board with changing their traditional farming practices, especially making them more European, but they knew something had to be done. With this mindset, the system of farming was revamped and restablished itself in a way that would leave room for industrialization and continue on without serfs (Geyer 128).

We look again to Levin for how Tolstoy incorporates these societal changes into the novel. Levin, a farm owner, is passionate about his views on how farming should be structured and how the muzhiks should be controlled. After his day with Sviyazhsky, he goes over their conversations in his head and has some interesting insights. He thinks to himself:

You say our farming doesn’t work because the muzhiks hate all improvements and that they must be introduced by authority. Now, if farming didn’t work at all without these improvements, you’d be right; but it does work, and it works only here… Let’s try to look at the work force not as an ideal workforce but as the Russian muzhik with his instincts, and organize our farming accordingly. (338)

Levin’s insights show us that he favors a more personal approach to farming. He wants a united Russian workforce, though not necessarily a return to serfdom. He feels that men should care about their work, just as the old man he and Sviyazhsky encountered together. Levin makes these ideas more apparent when he decides to actually go out and do work with his peasants in the fields. Just as the old man is an active landlord, Levin is a very active farm owner. Levin goes into detail about his work with his peasants and at one point describes the personal aspect of joining in their labor:

…He [Levin] had taken a scythe from a muzhik and begun mowing. He had liked the work so much that he had taken to mowing several more times; he had mowed the whole meadow in front of the house, and since the spring of that year he had made a plan for himself – to spend whole days mowing with the muzhiks. (247-248)

This passage truly shows how much not only the country life means to Levin, but how much the life he leads honors his truest intentions. He respects the muzhiks and works alongside them, fulfilling his belief that farming should be a personal experience and that farm owners like himself should have a larger role other than just being an authority figure to the muzhiks.

The final changing aspect of Russian society was the great rates at which people were moving from the country to the city. Urbanization was seen at rates unparalleled at the time; an unsettling statement considering life in the city was considerably more expensive than in the country and the lower and middle classes were extremely poor (Lewis 776). The serfs, who were newly freed, had no gap in which they established themselves in the countryside, they made no money, just simply ran away to a better life in the city as soon as their emancipation was decreed. This led to a vast overcrowding of the Russian cities, St. Petersburg and Moscow. The cities, which had been inhabited primarily by nobles, were flooded with crowds of peasants and members of the emerging middle class, which caused a culture shock and led to many new ways of thinking for the new city-dwelling Russian. Many were turned off by the idea of cities being taken over by commoners, but there were some who had completely new ideas of how to solve the problem. New ways of thinking and new philosophies were being developed during this time, due greatly in part to the quick rate of urbanization (Walicki 86).

Tolstoy once again uses Levin as his tool to share his personal beliefs on urbanization and the focus on city versus country. Levin is, of course, a landowning countryman who does well for himself outside of the society of city life. Levin has no regrets about the way he lives his life, but he does realize that others, including the family of his beloved Kitty Shcherbatsky, object to his simple country lifestyle. The Scherbatsky’s views are illustrated here:

In their eyes, though he was now thirty-two, he did not have any regular, defined activity or position in society, whereas among his comrades one was already a colonel and imperial aide-de-camp, one a professor, one the director of a bank an d a railway or the chief of an office like Oblonsky, while he (he knew very well what he must seem like to others) was a landowner, occupied with breeding cows, shooting snipe, and building things, that is, a giftless fellow who amounted to nothing and was doing, in society’s view, the very thing that good-for-nothing people do. (22-23)

These thoughts he has prove to be true as we learn more about the philosophies city-dwellers hold on country life. The Scherbatskys know only high society and the royal life so it is a bit of a shock to them when they learn their youngest daughter is to marry a simple countryman.

Though it could be argued that Anna Karenina was written to tell more personal and intimate stories, it is evident that Tolstoy used it as a means to illustrate the vast array of social change that was so important to Russian society in his lifetime. After Czar Alexander II sparked social reform by emancipating the serfs in 1861, educational and farming reforms were soon to follow, as was the migration to cities. Tolstoy principally uses Levin as a vessel for his own beliefs on many topics while using other characters and the vast array of situations to pose contradictory arguments and many examples of social reform of the late nineteenth century.

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In Pursuit of Love

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Sexual relations have different social implications depending on the society in which they take place. Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is a 19th century novel and Yevgeny Zamyatin’s Envy is a 20th century novel. Both novels portray the imperfect realities of coupling, yet in very different fashions. Anna Karenina focuses more in depth on the third person relations between characters, while We narrates D-503’s perspective. Both give the reader the understanding that society impacts the value of the relations between man and woman. The consequences of those actions are also depicted.

In order to have imperfect relations, there must be an ideal. Both novels inexplicitly explain an unidentifiable perfect couple. In Anna Karenina, this consists of a married man and woman, who peacefully interact socially and in the bedroom. We’s flawless couple includes a male Number and a female Number who have no emotional connection and “have the right of access to any other’s Number as sexual product” simply to satisfy human need for sex (Zamyatin p. 22). These are very drastically different social implications: one insists on an emotional bond, and the other frowns upon it. Yet in both, social perfection is desirable.

In order to maintain the image of perfection, characters from both books endure discomfort. “The Karenins, husband and wife, went on living in the same house, met everyday, but were completely estranged from each other,” because it upholds their image of an ideal couple (Tolstoy p. 353). Tolstoy writes, “The Karenin, husband and wife,” emphasizing their role to each other and that both are partaking in the establishment of the image. They must endure this because Anna decides she loves a different man. This is not socially acceptable, so rather than either of them facing the embarrassment, they pretend like everything is normal.

In Anna Karenina the ideal couple is a happy and married. In We, there is not the image of perfect unity, rather there is the ideal estrangement. D-503 and O try to maintain this, with their regulating the Sex Day rules, and not calling each other “my.” D-503, however, become infatuated with another Number, I-330. Because in their society, in theory, “there’s no longer the slightest cause for envy,” so when D-503 hurts O with his affections towards another Number, he must recognize the faults with both himself and the system (Zamyatin p.23). O loves D-503, and when she admits this, D thinks to himself, “What savage terminology – “mine.” I was never… But I suddenly caught myself: It occurred to me that I wasn’t before, true, but now…” (Zamyatin p. 76). Here he understands the difference in society’s ideal and the reality. He was not socially hers, but emotionally he was. Now he loves I-330, which should not happen. He calls the word “mine” “savage” because it is from “the Ancient Days,” and has been socially discarded; the feeling has not subsided.

The feeling of ‘mine-ness’ and deviating from the social norm is depicted in a drastic manor in each novel. In Anna Karenina, when Anna and Vronsky consummate their relationship, rather than the ideal perfect union, their coupling is compared to a dead body. Tolstoy emphasizing the unnatural reality of their relationship writes, “And as the murderer falls upon this body with animosity, as if with passion, drags it off and cuts it up, so he covered her face and shoulders with kisses” (Tolstoy pp. 149-150). This is a very horrific scene. Besides the word “murderer,” other words like “animosity,” “drags,” and “cuts,” give the reader the understanding that Anna has killed her potential for the ideal relationship. She has allowed herself to enter a dark place.

D-503 does not enter a dark place, but a place of freedom. Previously, he was only allowed to sleep with someone when other prescribed it, and only allowed as much emotional attachment as society deems appropriate. When D-503 and I-330 consummate their relationship, D-503 later describes the experience “… I tasted the swallow of burning poison, and another and another, and I broke free of the earth, a free planet, whirling furiously, down, down, along some orbit yet to be calculated” (Zamyatin p.56). This “free planet” depicts the freedom that D feels, the magnitude of it all. But it is mixed with the “poison.” This toxin is arguably the alcohol, which D tastes for the first time, but is also possibly the forbidden love. He knows that estrangement is the ideal, yet he cannot help his feelings for I-330, making them toxic. His romantic interest in I-330 is poison for his relationship with O and his relationship with OneState. He feels free, despite all the issues, because he has a more humane kind of love.

With humane love, there is hurt. In Anna Karenina, Vronsky, learning the consequences of his actions, discovers Anna is pregnant. His experience is described, “At this news he felt with tenfold force an attack of that strange feeling of loathing for someone that has been over him” (Tolstoy p.188). This feeling of attack is the discomfort in love. Society perceives that a man and woman should be married to have sexual relations. Vronsky and Anna are not, and through Anna’s pregnancy, they will have to face the humiliation of breaking the ideal. This is uncomfortable.

D-503 experiences a similar discomfort in his new relationship with O. Since impregnating her, he has a more humane, and less robotic, relationship with her. With this, however, comes hurt. While he gives her what she wants, he does not love her. At this point, he recognizes his role in hurting her. O rubs his arm, as if to say, it’ll be ok. D thinks, “This was some kind of ancient caress that I’d never heard of… I felt such hurt and shame that I jerked my hand back (probably a little too roughly)” (Zamyatin p. 164). He reacts so sharply because he is unfamiliar with affection, and is aware that he has enabled this kind of affection. He feels guilty.

If one followed the social standards, he or she would not feel guilty. Both in Anna Karenina and in We, the couples are imperfect because they do not follow the expectations of that society. Anna decides she does not wish to follow the expectation of marriage, and D-503 decides not to act in estrangement. Tolstoy and Zamyatin depict very different societies, but both suffer from human love. The similarities in the character’s trails highlight the inevitable struggle for perfect love, but the consequences of this inability.

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For the Love of Love

June 13, 2019 by Essay Writer

Sexual relations have different social implications depending on the society in which they take place. Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is a 19th century novel and Yevgeny Zamyatin’s Envy is a 20th century novel. Both novels portray the imperfect realities of coupling, yet in very different fashions. Anna Karenina focuses more in depth on the third person relations between characters, while We narrates D-503’s perspective. Both give the reader the understanding that society impacts the value of the relations between man and woman. The consequences of those actions are also depicted.

In order to have imperfect relations, there must be an ideal. Both novels inexplicitly explain an unidentifiable perfect couple. In Anna Karenina, this consists of a married man and woman, who peacefully interact socially and in the bedroom. We’s flawless couple includes a male Number and a female Number who have no emotional connection and “have the right of access to any other’s Number as sexual product” simply to satisfy human need for sex (Zamyatin p. 22). These are very drastically different social implications: one insists on an emotional bond, and the other frowns upon it. Yet in both, social perfection is desirable.

In order to maintain the image of perfection, characters from both books endure discomfort. “The Karenins, husband and wife, went on living in the same house, met everyday, but were completely estranged from each other,” because it upholds their image of an ideal couple (Tolstoy p. 353). Tolstoy writes, “The Karenin, husband and wife,” emphasizing their role to each other and that both are partaking in the establishment of the image. They must endure this because Anna decides she loves a different man. This is not socially acceptable, so rather than either of them facing the embarrassment, they pretend like everything is normal.

In Anna Karenina the ideal couple is a happy and married. In We, there is not the image of perfect unity, rather there is the ideal estrangement. D-503 and O try to maintain this, with their regulating the Sex Day rules, and not calling each other “my.” D-503, however, become infatuated with another Number, I-330. Because in their society, in theory, “there’s no longer the slightest cause for envy,” so when D-503 hurts O with his affections towards another Number, he must recognize the faults with both himself and the system (Zamyatin p.23). O loves D-503, and when she admits this, D thinks to himself, “What savage terminology – “mine.” I was never… But I suddenly caught myself: It occurred to me that I wasn’t before, true, but now…” (Zamyatin p. 76). Here he understands the difference in society’s ideal and the reality. He was not socially hers, but emotionally he was. Now he loves I-330, which should not happen. He calls the word “mine” “savage” because it is from “the Ancient Days,” and has been socially discarded; the feeling has not subsided.

The feeling of ‘mine-ness’ and deviating from the social norm is depicted in a drastic manor in each novel. In Anna Karenina, when Anna and Vronsky consummate their relationship, rather than the ideal perfect union, their coupling is compared to a dead body. Tolstoy emphasizing the unnatural reality of their relationship writes, “And as the murderer falls upon this body with animosity, as if with passion, drags it off and cuts it up, so he covered her face and shoulders with kisses” (Tolstoy pp. 149-150). This is a very horrific scene. Besides the word “murderer,” other words like “animosity,” “drags,” and “cuts,” give the reader the understanding that Anna has killed her potential for the ideal relationship. She has allowed herself to enter a dark place.

D-503 does not enter a dark place, but a place of freedom. Previously, he was only allowed to sleep with someone when other prescribed it, and only allowed as much emotional attachment as society deems appropriate. When D-503 and I-330 consummate their relationship, D-503 later describes the experience “… I tasted the swallow of burning poison, and another and another, and I broke free of the earth, a free planet, whirling furiously, down, down, along some orbit yet to be calculated” (Zamyatin p.56). This “free planet” depicts the freedom that D feels, the magnitude of it all. But it is mixed with the “poison.” This toxin is arguably the alcohol, which D tastes for the first time, but is also possibly the forbidden love. He knows that estrangement is the ideal, yet he cannot help his feelings for I-330, making them toxic. His romantic interest in I-330 is poison for his relationship with O and his relationship with OneState. He feels free, despite all the issues, because he has a more humane kind of love.

With humane love, there is hurt. In Anna Karenina, Vronsky, learning the consequences of his actions, discovers Anna is pregnant. His experience is described, “At this news he felt with tenfold force an attack of that strange feeling of loathing for someone that has been over him” (Tolstoy p.188). This feeling of attack is the discomfort in love. Society perceives that a man and woman should be married to have sexual relations. Vronsky and Anna are not, and through Anna’s pregnancy, they will have to face the humiliation of breaking the ideal. This is uncomfortable.

D-503 experiences a similar discomfort in his new relationship with O. Since impregnating her, he has a more humane, and less robotic, relationship with her. With this, however, comes hurt. While he gives her what she wants, he does not love her. At this point, he recognizes his role in hurting her. O rubs his arm, as if to say, it’ll be ok. D thinks, “This was some kind of ancient caress that I’d never heard of… I felt such hurt and shame that I jerked my hand back (probably a little too roughly)” (Zamyatin p. 164). He reacts so sharply because he is unfamiliar with affection, and is aware that he has enabled this kind of affection. He feels guilty.

If one followed the social standards, he or she would not feel guilty. Both in Anna Karenina and in We, the couples are imperfect because they do not follow the expectations of that society. Anna decides she does not wish to follow the expectation of marriage, and D-503 decides not to act in estrangement. Tolstoy and Zamyatin depict very different societies, but both suffer from human love. The similarities in the character’s trails highlight the inevitable struggle for perfect love, but the consequences of this inability.

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

June 4, 2019 by Essay Writer

Facial expressions and body language communicate one’s intentions and emotions far better than words. Leo Tolstoy, in Anna Karenina, describes a plethora of physical descriptions, enabling the reader to more completely understand the characters’ emotional state of mind. Other characters and the narrator frequently describe Anna’s shoulders. When Vrosnky and Levin look at them, they have a surge of excitement. Dolly and Kitty notice them and are impressed. The narrator depicts her shoulders in times of discontentment or pain. In all three cases, Anna’s shoulders signify the mood at the time of the interaction. Anna’s shoulders are a tangible manifestation of her mental and emotional state, and what kind of energy she expresses.

When Anna’s shoulders are described for the first time, Anna also acts promiscuously for the first time, by dancing with Vronsky, whom is expected to propose to Kitty. Kitty admires Anna’s dress, which exposed her shoulders and chest. She emphasized that “the black dress with luxurious lace was not seen on her; it was just a frame, and only she was seen – simple, natural, graceful, and at the same time gay and animated” (p.79). Anna’s dress choice is evidence of her mood; she wanted to fit within the “frame” of society’s expectations for her, yet still expose her exuberant nature.

While still conforming to society’s expectations, she sympathizes with social outcasts, foreshadows her future affair. At the ball when Anna is exposing her shoulders, Kitty walks over to Anna, and interrupts a conversation, where Anna is saying, “No, I don’t throw stones” (p.79). This is a reference in the bible when a woman is caught in the act of adultery. The woman is dragged into public, completely naked. The crime for adultery at the time was stoning. Jesus says, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her” (John 8:7). When Anna says, I don’t cast stones, she is saying that she is not without sin, but also that she may sympathize with a woman who commits adultery. The circumstances – her flirtatious mood, exposed shoulders, and the conversation — foreshadow her leaving her husband in favor of Vronsky, her future lover.

Once Anna becomes more comfortable with her expressive mannerism, Vronsky follows the opportunity until they consummate their relationship. The narrator compares this interaction; “as the murderer falls upon this body with animosity, as if with passion, drags it off and cuts it up, so [Vronsky] covered [Anna’s] face and shoulders with kisses” (pp.149-150). In this graphic description, the reader becomes aware of the toxic physical relationship the characters have created. Anna’s shoulders — the tangible revealing of her previous mental restraint– inform the reader of the characters’ actions. By comparing their physical relationship to a murder, Anna — and the reader — is forced to recognize that Vronsky killed her previously admired social standing because of “these kisses” on her shoulder, (p.150). Yet, she holds Vronsky’s love closely. He killed her mental resistance, and in doing so, encouraged her promiscuous behavior to grow.

After an extensive stretch of time, Anna is dying from puerperal fever, and she reconsiders the growth of her scandal. She no longer holds her defiance as a dear characteristic, which is apparent in how she now carries her shoulders. As she lay in bed, “The doctor took her arms away, carefully laid her back on the pillow and covered her shoulders” (p.413). She is no longer in a position of physical power, which is represented by the doctor covering her shoulders, as if to say, you need to stop exposing yourself and return to your previous way of life. The physical recovering instigates verbal control, which she used to easily possess. She demands that Alexi Alexandrovich uncover Vronsky’s face and forgive him, which he does. Once this is complete, she prepares to die.

Contrary to her plan, Anna miraculously lives, and resorts back to her previous risqué relationship with Vronsky, much to society’s gossiping pleasure. Suppressed by the lies and exclusion, Anna decides to go to the opera to prove she does not care about society’s expectations for her. Vronsky describes Anna as she sits in a box at the show; “The setting of her head on her handsome, broad shoulders, and the restrained excitement and brilliance of her eyes and her whole face reminded him of her just as he had seen her at the ball in Moscow” (p. 546). Her shoulders are described as broad, which could mean they were drawing more attention than usual. It is interesting that the singer’s shoulders are the only other shoulders described in this scene. Obviously, being the main performer, the singer is seeking attention. By also wearing a revealing dress, Anna is competing for attention with the performer. She succeeds. Vronsky, not looking for Anna knows where she is sitting “from the direction of all eyes” (p.545). Anna is the center of attention. She ends up in a cyclical process: Anna is excited to prove she can act however she wants, so she dresses in a revealing manor exposing her shoulders, then when people stare and gossip she becomes even more excited. By showing her shoulders, she is physically displaying her emotional state of excited defiance toward social expectations.

In Anna’s final moments of life, she looses her mental vigor. When she is at the train station looking for Vrosnky in a completely agitated state, she suddenly thinks of the train as a way to end her misery. “Exactly at the moment when the space between the wheels came opposite her, she dropped the red bag, and drawing her head back into her shoulders, fell on her hands under the carriage, and lightly, as though she would rise again at once, dropped on to her knees” (p. 768). Tolstoy describes Anna as “drawing her head back into her shoulders,” which could be a metaphor for her physical and emotional trial. During her entire relationship with Vronsky, there has been a struggle between what she verbally says and what her body reveals. When she meets Vronsky for the first time, “she deliberately extinguished the light in her eyes, but it shone against her will,” (p.61). At a party she encourages him to leave her alone, and when he refuses says, “That only shows you have no heart,”… But her eyes said that she knew he had a heart, and that was why she was afraid of him.” (p.139). This is a reoccurring struggle, so when Anna finally has no more mental strength to fight the oppression of her situation, she acts purely how her body has wanted to the entire time. In her dying moments, her head, which represents her mental strength, falls onto her shoulders, which represents her physical desire. Her final moments are her mental ending her externally expressed internal struggle.

This struggle can be related to Vronsky’s attention and Anna’s resistance. It is not accidental that both Anna’s shoulders and promiscuousness appear at the same time; when her shoulders are described, and when they are not, are based on her intentions. At the train station, when she first arrives in Petersburg and meets Vronsky, “she deliberately extinguished the light in her eyes, but it shone against her will”(p. 61). Upon their meeting, her shoulders are not depicted. Every other feature is described: her figure, expression, head, eyes, eyelashes, and lips. She tries to distinguish the light, which shows she is committed to maintaining her social expectations, despite her attraction to Vronsky. Similarly, at a party she encourages him to leave her alone, and again, her shoulders are not described. By dressing to expose her shoulders, she no longer attempts to restrain the defiant energy within her.

Tolstoy is aware of the relationship between mental thought and physical action; he expresses his understanding of body language as a form of communication through his descriptions of Anna’s shoulders. While Anna’s mental strength is what was extinguished by her inner struggle, other characters are aware of her trials because of her expression of her body, particularly her shoulders. When she allowed Vronsky to kill her social standing, she introduced the beginning to her tragic end. Had she never exposed her shoulders, she would have maintained her moderate existence and extensive prestige.

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