Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Hearts and Minds of Tolstoy's Characters

As I make my way through Anna Karenina I am once again amazed at the ability of Tolstoy to understand what's in the hearts and minds of his characters. I've passed the section in the novel where Anna reveals to her husband that she is having an affair. She's been pushed into this admission because she's pregnant. She attributes to herself a love of truth, but that truth was not so important before she was forced to face it.

Despite the fact that the affair occurred because of a mutual attraction between Anna and Vronsky that led to Vronsky pursuing her until she submitted, Anna sees her husband as being at fault. She admits to her own flaws, but passes them over quickly in her mind and concentrates on what annoys her about her husband.

“I'm a wicked woman, a lost woman,” she thought; “but I don't like lying, I can't endure a falsehood, while as for him (her husband) it's the breath of his life—falsehood. He knows all about it, he sees it all; what does he care if he can talk so calmly? If he were to kill me, if he were to kill Vronsky, I might respect him. No, all he wants is falsehood and propriety,” Anna said to herself, not considering exactly what it was she wanted of her husband, and how she would have liked to see him behave. She did not understand either that Alexey Alexandrovitch's peculiar loquacity that day, so exasperating to her, was merely the expression of his inward distress and uneasiness.

As a reader I sympathize with Anna because I see her humanity. I also sympathize with her husband and her lover, because I can understand what they're going through as well. This novel concentrates on what the characters feel rather than what the author feels better than either Resurrection or War and Peace. That's why I consider this the best of the three I've included in my reading list.

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