Friday, November 9, 2012

Anna Karenina: Final Rhetoric Inquiry



Is there an argument in this book?

                  Let’s face it, there are about as many arguments in Anna Karenina as there are subplots; however, I am going to focus on only a few, which are actually intertwined. 

The hypocrisy of adultery

                  One of the obvious discrepancies is how society views and responds to Anna and her brother, Stepan.  Both of them are committing adultery, but Anna is eventually shunned by high society, while Stepan changes lovers like one changes socks; and everyone knows about his affairs, including his wife, Dolly.  But Stepan is not interested in leaving his wife and children because he knows that family is necessary and important. 
                  Anna, on the other hand, takes her passions too far by falling in love with Vronsky and actually abandoning her husband and son.  According to Vronsky’s mother, it can often be a great distinction for a young man to take a sophisticated married woman as his mistress, unless of course she ruins his career plans; and this is what Anna did by bewitching her lover to readjust his plans for her.
                  The point is that hypocrisy lies at the heart of a society that accepts adulterous affairs between men and women just so long as passions are checked and marriages and families remain intact.  Even still, the whole idea that affairs are acceptable is hypocritical to the point of marriage and its purpose.  I prefer Levin’s idea about marriage:  women are for marriage, and marriage is for families.  And we know that marriage is sacred to Levin because he scolds his friend Stepan at least twice for “stealing rolls.” 
                 
Control your passions!

                  On the subject of passions: everyone has a passion about something, but it is necessary to use your passions for what is useful and good.  Levin was passionate about his agriculture and peasant workers, sometimes obsessively, causing him grief and frustration from time to time, but he was constantly seeking ways to improve the work of the peasant and the output of his crops.  Kitty was passionate about her service to Levin’s dying brother, Nikolay, and she did much good for him.  Dolly was passionate about her children, demonstrating her love and dedication to them, even under demanding situations.  However, Anna's passion about her love for Vronsky and Vronsky's love for her consumed her self-control, allowing jealousy to destroy her.

Do you agree?  Is this work true about human experience?

                  I am no fun.  Sorry.  Adultery under any circumstance is offensive to me, and marriage is sacred and forever, even crappy marriages like those I’ve been reading about.  (I’m not talking about marriages involving abuse.)  I am referring to marriages like Anna’s, in which she is absolutely bored and tired of Alexey because he is as romantic as cold marble stone.  Any kinds of acceptable practices of adultery are hypocritical. 
                  Hypocrisy is rampant because people are so open to judge others, and yet they do not look at their own behavior, such as Betsy who carried on her own extramarital affairs.  She encouraged Anna and Vronsky to have their affair, and yet when it became serious and Anna was ostracized by society, Betsy wanted nothing to do with Anna. 
                  Meanwhile, Anna should have invested all of her passions into her son.  While I feel compassion for her desire to be loved and to love another, when she allowed Vronsky to capture her affections, she crossed the line.  She should have run the other way.   She should have controlled her passions.  I know…easier said than done. 
                  Finally, yes, I can see this being true about human experience even today.   Passions can blind us to reality, and some passions become obsessions that lead to destruction..   This seems to be a repeated argument in the classics.  

2 comments:

  1. Well thought out review. I loved this novel. I agree that marriage is sacred and permanent. The only exception, however, being if one's spouse has committed adultery.

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    1. I agree, Carol. While marriage is designed to be a permanent union and commitment, adultery is the exception. Even Jesus tells us in Scripture that divorce is permitted in cases of sexual immorality, while reasons like boredom and falling out of romantic love do not count.

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