Anna Karenina – Section Three, by Leo Tolstoy
image via whatsthematterwithkansas.com
So now we’re into what I call the “Kansas” of a novel: the characters are defined, the plot underway toward the opposite coast; i.e., the crisis point and denouement. But first to bring you up to date.
Tolstoy spends a lot of time in this section with Lévin on his farm, mowing hay, managing the place, and navigating his brother’s personal dramas – all in an effort to put sweet Kitty out of his mind. But as time passes, Lévin grows a case of the blues.
Meanwhile, Anna’s husband, Alexéi Alexándrovich, is brooding, too. He’s determined to hate Anna, so punishing her for her affair is a must. In the end, he decides her torture is to remain his wife. Thus, Anna and Vrónsky’s love for one another will remain incomplete. And still in a dark mood, Alexéi Alexándrovich takes on a professional mission to subjugate minorities, the Poles in particular. Due to political trickery, his plans are foiled.
This section must have been a tricky one for Tolstoy to write. He has to advance plot and continue to unearth character traits that supply the plot its fuel, and the section is largely in narrative. This is where his narrative writing ability sparkles. Narrative is often used to create a bit of emotional relief from scenic intensity. But Tolstoy’s gift here is in conveying mood and emotion for two of his primary characters – Lévin and Alexéi Alexándrovich – without the impact of scene. In a novel as long as this one, and serialized to boot, that was no small feat.
My rating: 19 of 20 stars
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