Oprah's E-mails About Anna Karenina
Part Seven brings us to the dramatic collision of every character, theme and tension Tolstoy has woven so far! All our characters are waiting—Anna and Vronsky for her divorce, Lenin and Kitty for their baby. Their anticipation is fraught with so much nervous energy, I could almost feel it radiating off the page! Once and for all, our main characters struggle with the meaning of life and love, faith and truth. And their struggles unfold with velocity!
In Moscow, Anna and Vronsky are "settled in like a married couple," but her world is far from calm. Having abandoned her son, her responsibilities and the anchors in her life, Anna is reeling toward disaster. Levin, too, struggles with Moscow life. Uprooted from the clarity of his country duties, preparing for his new child, Levin searches for answers about life, God, and the meaning of it all.
Anna's path toward destruction collides with Levin's journey toward understanding when they meet for the very first time. Does she even understand what she's saying when she speaks of energy and love? Her words gave me a chill. "Energy, you say. Energy is based on love. And love can't be drawn from just anywhere, it can't be ordered." (p. 699) Anna doesn't know why she loves whom she loves...she is simply driven by passion.
Momentarily bewitched by Anna's beauty and charm, Levin has no idea Anna's heart is empty. "Though for the whole evening she had unconsciously done everything she could to arose a feeling of love for her in Levin ... as soon as he left the room, she stopped thinking about him." (p. 704) She can think only of Vronsky, driven by a need that can never be fulfilled. "If I have such an effect on others, on this loving family man, why is [Vronsky] so cold to me? ... Do I live? I don't live. ... I can't do anything, start anything, change anything." (p. 704) Anna is immersed in herself. She can't see outside herself, and so she is lost.
Like Anna, Levin is struggling, but his heart has remained open and giving. Where Anna is rootless, he's grounded in love and responsibility. Ultimately, he finds the answers he seeks in an overwhelming life moment—the birth of his child. Watching the pain and endurance of Kitty's labor, he instinctively turns to the God he's questioned. "In that moment ... all his doubts ... blew off his soul like dust." (p. 709) "In spite of so long and seemingly complete an estrangement, he was turning to God just as trustfully and simply as in his childhood." (p. 713) I think he's had the answers all along!
In sharp contrast to Levin's path toward faith, Anna continues on a doomed path. Jealousy and fear take their toll on Anna's mind and soul. The loving, charismatic Anna who Vronsky fell in love with is slowly replaced by a vengeful, out of control woman. She blames Vronsky for the storm in her soul, blind to the truth that she is pushing him away—creating her own misery. Completely distraught and bitter, Anna imagines her death is the only way to make Vronsky love her again.
Anna's world becomes as dark and ugly as she feels. Standing on the platform at the train station, Anna knows Vronsky isn't coming to rescue her; there is no escape. She remembers the man who was run over by a train the day she first met Vronsky. To our horror, she "knows" what she must do. She resolves to "punish him and be rid of everybody and myself." (p. 768) Making the sign of the cross, she gives up all her "anxieties, deceptions, grief and evil," and is gone forever. Anna leaves the novel the same way she entered it—with all the impact of a speeding train.
I find myself feeling just as much compassion for Anna as I feel for Levin in his steadfast humanity. We each create our own paths—through our beliefs, our questions and our actions.
I look forward to finishing this masterpiece with you!