Monday, August 2, 2010

Book Four - Anna Karenina - Part Five

A couple of things I've read in this book remind me of one of the requirements for a book to be great: the author must so capture the characters that they remind readers of themselves and/or people they know. The characters, no matter the particular situation, must have a kind of "everyman" quality. Anna Karenina was written in the late 19th century, but people are people. From Part 5 Chapter 13--
Golenishtchev was the first to give expression to an idea that had occurred to all of them, which was that Mihailov was simply jealous of Vronsky.
This is something which has always puzzled me. Some people consistently ascribe negative reactions to jealousy. Maybe Mihailov simply thought Vronsky was a jerk. I think he was a jerk. Does that have to mean I'm jealous of him, or could it maybe, possibly mean that I see a flaw? Or maybe that we're simply not like-minded enough for me to want to spend time around him? If I could talk to Golenishtchev and Anna and Vronsky, I would gently remind them that having flaws makes them human. We all have our weaknesses as well as our strengths. And I think this is one of Tolstoy's messages.

Secondly, from a deathbed scene, speaking of women, he says in Part 5 Chapter 19--
... they knew without a second of hesitation how to deal with the dying, and were not frightened of them. Levin and other men like him, though they could have said a great deal about death, obviously did not know this since they were afraid of death, and were absolutely at a loss what to do when people were dying.
And about the man, from the same chapter--
More than that, he did not know what to say, how to look, how to move. To talk of outside things seemed to him shocking, impossible, to talk of death and depressing subjects--also impossible. To be silent, also impossible.
The man (my dear, sweet, impetuous Levin) had read books about death yet when he was about to witness it discovered that he was afraid and uncomfortable. The woman simply wanted to comfort the dying.

Disclaimer: I am not making a generalization about gender stereotypes but merely noting that the experience in the story Tolstoy published in the last quarter of the 19th century has also been my experience in life with death. Whew, that oughta do it.

When I finish this book I will take a break from the bleakness of it all. I believe I shall read a nice fluffy book, the literary equivalent of a sitcom. I like sitcoms and sometimes I need one.

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