III. Rhetoric Stage Inquiry
Which character do you sympathize with and why?
In addition to sympathize, I also appreciate Darya Alexandrovna (Dolly), wife of Stepan Oblonsky, that self-absorbed, narcissistic, sophisticated, smooth-natured, frolicsome adulterer.
Dolly cares for their six children, and through her life we witness the very real frustrations and survivals of marriage and motherhood.
At the opening of Anna Karenina, we learn of Stepan's affair with the youthful and more attractive French governess. Dolly is going to leave him; but Anna convinces her that Stepan loves her. She only stays for the sake of the children. She knows Stepan does not love her, yet she forgives him. Imagine what selflessness is necessary to remain in such a marriage!
When Dolly is alone in the country with the children, we observe a small slice of motherhood that every mother endures:
…hard though it was for the mother to bear the dread of illness, the illnesses themselves, and the grief of seeing signs of evil propensities in her children—the children themselves were even now repaying her in small joys for her sufferings. Those joys were so small that they passed unnoticed, like gold in sand, and at bad moments she could see nothing but the pain, nothing but sand; but there were good moments too when she saw nothing but the joy, nothing but gold.But, it was not all rosy as Levin perceived Dolly’s unhappiness, too, after the children fight:
It was as if darkness had swooped down upon her life; she felt that these children of hers, that she was so proud of, were not merely most ordinary, but positively bad, ill-bred children, with coarse, brutal propensities – wicked children.
She could not talk or think of anything else, and she could not speak to Levin of her misery.
Motherhood encompasses a roller coaster of emotions. What fortitude it takes to keep a steady head under such vicissitudes!
On her way to visit Anna, Dolly frets, as mothers do, about their children. Being apart from them, she considers that they are not a burden after all, until she talks to a peasant woman who lost her baby and called it freedom; then Dolly reconsiders the physical aspects of pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, sleepless nights, and fear of death.
And all this, what’s it for? What is to come of it all? That I’m wasting my life, never having a moment’s peace…At the very best they’ll simply be decent people. That’s all I can hope for. And to gain simply that – what agonies, what toil!...One’s whole life ruined!
Again she recalled what the young peasant woman had said, and again she was revolted at the thought; but she could not help admitting that there was a grain of brutal truth in the words.
What honesty it takes to admit the truth of motherhood, for both its joys and tender encumbrances!