Anna Karenina – Section Seven, by Leo Tolstoy
There’s been a slowly fructifying issue in the story to date, and I haven’t been giving it its due: that Lévin is slowly creeping toward an existential showdown within himself over religious belief. In this section, having read book after book of philosophy trying to explain life, he must take Kitty to Moscow, ostensibly for her pregnancy – but it’s also to visit friends there.
For a while he’s unsettled - as usual – in the city, but he quickly acclimates. Eventually, however, his unsettled feeling returns, as he finds nothing there to "feed his soul," as he might term it.
Meanwhile, Anna and Vrónsky’s split-up is slowly coming to pass – Vrónsky wishes more “male” freedom, and as Anna seeks to draw him ever nearer, the more Vrónsky edges away.
Finally, Kitty’s pregnancy comes to term, and in some of the most entertaining writing of this long book, Lévin comes unhinged in classic fatherly fashion. Despite his anxiety, and after a long wait, Kitty delivers – a boy.
Vrónsky has left after a final fight with Anna, promising to return soon. Anna has decided that Vrónsky doesn’t love her and, since Alexéi Alexándrovich won’t agree to a divorce, she follows Vrónsky to the train station in a state of despair. Spoiler Alert!!
She commits suicide by throwing herself under a train.
So Tolstoy has masterfully led Anna to the depths of despair as he’s led Lévin to one of life’s cherished moments. To many, this should end the story, and for Chekov and many modern writers, the story would have ended with these opposing life experiences. But Tolstoy isn’t done yet – there’s one more section to go. More then on Lévin's existential crisis and its resolution.
My rating 20 of 20
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