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If you have read Anna Karenina

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What did you think of the characters? I loved the characters of Kitty and Levin and found they had depth and integrity. Anna and Vronsky, not so much. I was not drawn into their love story. I disliked Anna more and more as the book progressed. She left her son and never seemed to bond with her baby daughter. Her husband did not seem so awful as we got to know him. In fact, he seemed much more decent than her. Towards the end of the book we see her flirting with other men and she seems like she is mentally ill. Why does he name the book after her?

 

It was interesting to see into elite Russian society. Do you think the upper classes of many countries can be similar, ie. lots of parties, a somewhat superficial life, and affairs?

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I haven't read it, but I have an Anna Karenina story (and will give you a bump! lol)

 

I was 20 or so, and in college. I came home to Connecticut for a break, and my mom wanted me to take my driver's license test so I could change from my FL license. She couldn't take me, so my godmother said she'd be happy to let me drive her car and use it for the test.

 

It was a stick.

 

I spent the next 30 minutes in the parking lot, trying desperately to learn how to shift and use the clutch, all to no avail.

 

Ever the gentle optimist, my godmother gave up and invited me to spend the rest of the afternoon with her, watching Anna Karenina on the TV.

 

After the movie, she made one of the most profound statements (very simple, but profound)--She said, "Everything's a trade-off."

 

I thought Anna made some terrible trades, and I never respected nor understood her choices.

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I'm reading the book now (though I do know the basics of the story).  I don't think Anna and Vronsky are meant to be sympathetic characters.  Tolstoy is making a point about adultery (among other things).  I don't think of it as a love story at all but more of a social commentary.  But, I am only 1/3 of the way through and do not know all the subtleties of the story.

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Marbel is right. You aren't supposed to like Anna or Vronsky. Tolstoy was good at what he did because most people don't like them.

 

I loved the book but didn't care for many of the characters. Kitty is probably the only one I do like. Levin is a bit too proud of his piety for me to like him. Dolly is somewhat likable. 

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I agree that Tolstoy was making a commentary on adultery amongst other things so the main characters are meant to be viewed with disdain.

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Oh, I'd love to talk about that book!!  I've read it twice, once because of Oprah (cough) and again because of the WEM.  I enjoyed it both times, but I felt differently about it the second time. 

 

I agree that Anna is not particularly sympathetic, and at the end definitely should have been on meds.  The first time, I judged her; I was offended that she left her kid.  The second I felt bad for her, and like I'd met her at some point in other women in real life.  You know how sometimes women put all their eggs in that one relationship basket and feel they have no recourse at all?  They don't believe they are worth much, alone, and they have to hold on to that guy or they lose all they are. 

 

In a marriage, when feelings settle down from honeymoon to normal comfortability, we feel safe in a way that Anna couldn't ever feel.  Maybe that's unwise in some cases, but society supports our normalcy, you know? 

 

I like Levin.  I could have a little crush on Levin.  I haven't watched any movies of this book because I don't want my mental picture of him disturbed.  :coolgleamA:

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I wish I'd saved it to read as an adult... I devoured it as a teen and now I can barely remember it.

 

I do remember though that Anna was increasingly unlikable as the story went on. I remembered even as a teen being a little disturbed by her lack of feeling for her kids. I think the book is "her" book though in that it's her situation that we're supposed to think most about, and her choices and so forth, and the position that society put her in...

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I think she's tragic. It's been awhile since I read it, but I remember thinking how differently society treated women. Wealthy men got away with everything! If they were well-liked before their sins, they were well liked after. Women were used. Maybe cherished, but not equal partners. I consider it a social and economic commentary, not a love story at all.

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While Anna definitely made bad choices, I felt sorry for her. She paid an extremely high cost for her sins that guilty men did not have to pay (giving up her children, loss of all social relationships).

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I adore Anna Karenina as a character. I think Tolstoy loved her too. If I could meet up with Tolstoy, I would have a number of questions for him, starting with, "how could you do that her?"

Edited by Danestress

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I love that book. Levin was my favorite and I feel Tolstoy wrote himself into the story though this character. Anna made me mad but more I felt sorry for her. I think she knew she behaved badly and recognized her shameful ways and it ate her up inside. She didn't have the will to change and was too self obsessed.

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I read this for the first time in my 40's and loved it. Somehow I had never heard about the plot beforehand so the ending was quite a shock. I didn't like Anna, but I did feel sorry for her. I think Tolstoy meant for Kitty and Levin to be foils; he wants the reader to eschew Anna's choices and embrace Kitty and Levin's.  

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I could not care at all about Levin. I know the stuff he was talking about was terribly relevant at the time, but it bored me to tears. I thought I was reading a book about Anna's torrid love affair, not some treatise on Russian agricultural practices and the rights of workers. Levin got just as much "time" in the book as Anna, if not more, so I felt the title should have been Anna and Levin.

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I do remember though that Anna was increasingly unlikable as the story went on. I remembered even as a teen being a little disturbed by her lack of feeling for her kids. I think the book is "her" book though in that it's her situation that we're supposed to think most about, and her choices and so forth, and the position that society put her in...

 

Yes, while Tolstoy definitely made sure we knew she did wrong and was punished for it, he also wanted to show how few options women had.

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Spolier in white font below.

 

I read the edited version where she didn't kill herself.   Normally I would hate any edited version like that.   But, I was in Elementary school and it was from the elementary school library, so...  I'm glad.   Plus, I still like that version better. 

I was probably 40 when I saw the old movie.  I was quite shocked by the ending.  Husband had read the original version.  

 

I liked the book, but I was meh on Anna.  I think the reason I liked it was the people were 3 dimensional. 

 

edited to put the spolier in white font.  I had assumed it would ok since it isn't a new book, but then it isn't exactly a book in every high school literature class, so that was a bad assumption on my part. 

Edited by shawthorne44

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I read it long, long ago, so I'm not certain about specific characters. I just remember being so greatly offended that the man could be adulterous and sleep around and be accepted into society, but the woman could not.

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I love kitty and Levin and detest oblonski. I think part of the point with Anna and Vronski is that though what they were doing was the same as everyone else around them (or most) they tried to legitimise or make permanent their relationship whereas others maintained the fiction of their marriages because there were no other options. Remember Anna was placed in an arranged marriage with Karenin and she was young at the time - she knew nothing of her future. Her treatment of her son breaks my heart but I do feel that circumstances were against her. The reason that Vronski fares better than her is because he has options and his affair doesn't destroy his life outside of it, whereas society is far harder on unconventional women and Anna is basically isolated by her choices and becomes mentally ill.

Although their actions are the same society treats them differently.

 

As with all Tolstou characters they have strong and weak point and likeable and less likeable moments.

Edited by Ausmumof3
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Tolstoy often used his characters as a way to express his political, social, and religious beliefs (as Dickens also did but in a different way). I've read that Levin was Tolstoy's mouthpiece in Anna Karenina just as Pierre was in War and Peace.

Edited by Lady Florida
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As other posters have stated Tolstoy used his writing to talk about political and moral issues. His later books went away from fiction and he pened his thoughts on his very different religious views. He was a Christian but he believed in anarchy and that the rich should divide their land among the poor. He was wealthy his whole life so his views on the poor are from an aristocrats point of view. He valued family and Anna Karenina was about his views on family. If you read War and Peace Natasha also suffered greatly for her betrayal of Andrew. I didn't like Anna although I was not expecting the ending. My mother left her marriage for a man she had an affair with so I think my personal experience made me hold Anna in even more contempt. As an aside Martin Luther King and Ghandi were both inspired by Tolstoys views and Ghandi was writing back and forth with Tolstoy before Tolstoy died.

Edited by Momto4inSoCal
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I liked the book, but I was meh on Anna.  I think the reason I liked it was the people were 3 dimensional. 

 

Could you edit out the giant spoiler in your post. You just wrecked the surprise ending for me and potentially others.

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This book is one of my favorites.  When I got to the end of it, I felt angry for Anna.  The men could do whatever, have numerous affairs and such, and there was no consequence, but  her "sin" meant she lost everything.  Not that I think she was right, but clearly, for women in that society, there was no way back from certain choices, where as men could just move on.  

 

I was upset with how she was towards her children, but I think her non-attachment to them stemmed from the larger issue of her disdain, dislike, whatever you want to call it, towards her husband. She felt trapped.  She knew that if she left she could never have her children, they belonged to her husband, so she chose not to become attached.  

 

I couldn't stand Levin, but that's more because I am not in favor of communism.  I couldn't stand his speeches and wanted to argue with him. :D

 

I do love that book.  I have not seen the latest movie, because I heard it was awful, but one of these days I may watch it.  

 

 

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<snip>

But, I was in Elementary school and it was from the elementary school library, so...  I'm glad.   Plus, I still like that version better. 

I was probably 40 when I saw the old movie. 

<snip>

 

Yes, as a pp said, please edit your post.

 

And...

I'm trying to figure out why there was an edited version of the book for elementary-aged kids with a different ending.   I did sometimes read abridgements/retellings of books (Treasure Island, a few others I can't remember now) to my kids when they were younger, or had the kids read them as a precursor to the "real thing" when they were ready for it.  But, this is clearly an adult book!  And, I can't see the value of something that has a significant change to a significant piece of the story!

 

Unless it was written by Tolstoy for a younger crowd?  Hard to imagine.

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I think Tolstoy had almost a love-hate relationship with Anna, and it comes through to the reader. She is strong and intelligent, and she has a whole lot more integrity than many other characters, particularly the men (who have affairs, but remain dedicated to "family" on the surface) but also a lot of the women (Vronsky's mother comes to mind..). If only she'd had her affair on the sly, she'd have lived "happily ever after." Somewhere in the book it says something like, "No matter how she tried, she could not become stronger than herself" which sums it up for me. She's a strong woman, but not stronger than the forces arrayed against her. Probably the biggest force was that she had a really big mistaken idea -- at least in Tolstoy's eyes -- that a ruling passion could be stronger than everything, even her duty to family.

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I seem to recall another angle to Anna's plight that had a self-destructive element.  She could have been accepted in society if she had stayed with her husband and had the affair on the sly, but she could also have been redeemed if she had just gotten a divorce and married Vronsky.  For some reason, she refused to do this.  I think she felt like it was hypocritical or something.  It made me feel a lot less sympathetic to her.  It was like she needed to punish herself for her bad choices (but then refused to make better ones).

 

I found the discussion about this - Vronsky begs her to get divorced and marry him, which would legitimize their child and make her acceptable to society again, but she refuses to even ask her husband for a divorce.

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I seem to recall another angle to Anna's plight that had a self-destructive element. She could have been accepted in society if she had stayed with her husband and had the affair on the sly, but she could also have been redeemed if she had just gotten a divorce and married Vronsky. For some reason, she refused to do this. I think she felt like it was hypocritical or something. It made me feel a lot less sympathetic to her. It was like she needed to punish herself for her bad choices (but then refused to make better ones).

 

I found the discussion about this - Vronsky begs her to get divorced and marry him, which would legitimize their child and make her acceptable to society again, but she refuses to even ask her husband for a divorce.

Am I wrong that ultimately, Karenina would not agree to a divorce?

And she would not agree to live a pretend marriage.

Edited by Danestress

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Am I wrong that ultimately, Karenina would not agree to a divorce?

And she would not agree to live a pretend marriage.

 

I think originally he wouldn't, but later Vronsky at least thought he would, but she wouldn't even ask.  Dolly also implores her to ask for a divorce, and she refuses.  Unless there's a later scene about this that I'm forgetting?

 

The scenes I'm thinking of where this was discussed primarily are in Part 4, Chapters 21 (at the end), and 24.

Edited by Matryoshka

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Anna did not have the option of getting a divorce, IIRC.

 

SPOILERS FOLLOW:  

 

Also, remember how she started out?  She was the visitor who talked a woman into forgiving her husband, who was having an affair.  She stood for all the was right and true and moral in the first chapters of the book.  She was all about duty, and love.  And then she was chased by a man without morals, and the book shows the arc of her moral and spiritual and consequent mental decline.

 

Whereas Levin started out an agnostic, maybe an atheist (I can't remember which).  He considers many issues from a moral perspective.  He is not communist but rather supports the serfs not being enslaved anymore and having some agency, on moral grounds.  He observes society as an insider who is not enthralled by it or given to dissipation, and gradually falls in love, marries, has a child, and adopts Christianity.  His arc is the upward one on every level, and is in stunning contrast (show, don't tell) to Anna's.

 

When I was reading this book for the first time, I kept getting the little hints that he was headed that way, as if the book was as much a conversion story as anything, and I found it enthralling. The title really didn't fit the book, I thought.  And, Tolstoy is absolutely amazing.  

 

Afterwards I read a lengthy essay on it which said that Tolstoy's original title was something like "Two Marriages".  That would have had a foreshadowing element of Levin's marriage that might not have been good--I wonder whether that was why the title was changed?  In any case, I was kind of relieved that the title in fact DIDN'T fit the book.

 

I loved the exquisite details and characterizations in the book.  The description of Levin's actions and thoughts during Kitty's labor was the most apt and hilarious summary of that time for first babies that I can imagine.  I liked the casual descriptions of the Russian Orthodox practices that permeated everyday life, like saluting the ubiquitous icons.  I thought that the description of Anna's feelings and increasing entrapment, the moral and emotional dilemmas that she found herself in, was extraordinarily well done.  Tolstoy certainly knows human nature well, and despite the rather staggering length of the book, could establish it quickly and true to life.  Very, very impressive.  I'm so glad I read this.

Edited by Carol in Cal.
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I read Anna Karenina in high school, so it has been a long time. 

 

I liked Anna better than I liked Edna from The Awakening. I think I read the two books the same year. Anna's actions made more sense to me, even while I disagreed with her Tolstoy made me feel her emptiness, her surprised passion, her joy, her sorrow. So often other proto-feminist novels (The Awakening and Madame Bovary for instance) left me feeling completely cut off or frustrated with the main character. The counterpoint with Kitty and Levin was a relief to Anna's story, so she never frustrated me too much. 

 

I think the epigraph said it all for me (from the Bible "Vengeance is mine. I will repay."). Human beings have no reason to judge or deal out punishment. Quite often we bring our own punishment upon us. You can see this as a Fate thing or 'what goes around comes around' or even 'we are our own worst enemies.' All of those worked for me in the context of the story. 

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Two things popped into my mind that I had to post.

 

1. Anna Karenina has one of the all time best opening lines in literature. Ever.

 

2. Is anyone else feeling the urge to reread it because of this thread?

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Tolstoy often used his characters as a way to express his political, social, and religious beliefs (as Dickens also did but in a different way). I've read that Levin was Tolstoy's mouthpiece in Anna Karenina just as Pierre was in War and Peace.

I definitely think that Levin and Pierre are somewhat parallel characters and somewhat autobiographical. Natasha and Kitty seem more different though still similar in their more innocent approach to life.
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Am I wrong that ultimately, Karenina would not agree to a divorce?

And she would not agree to live a pretend marriage.

I think that access to her son after a divorce was an issue and she wasn't willing to compromise. Then later she is so ashamed of herself that she feels like she can't accept a divorce because it is too generous of Karenin.

I think part of the amazing power of this book is it made me able to feel sympathy to a woman whose actions aren't sympathetic by giving and insight into the psychological processes.

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Two things popped into my mind that I had to post.

 

1. Anna Karenina has one of the all time best opening lines in literature. Ever.

 

2. Is anyone else feeling the urge to reread it because of this thread?

Yep. Still want to watch the movie too.

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What did you think of the way Tolstoy handled Anna's husband regarding religion?  If I was reading it correctly, it seemed like he fell in with a spiritualist crowd, but before that he was deeply, deeply hypocritical - he loved the justice side (against those who offended him) but had no idea of mercy or of being merciful. 

 

I thought Tolstoy was saying something about the spiritualist trend in his time, and not something complimentary.

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I think it was Faulkner who said that "only the human heart in conflict with itself is worth writing about". Anna Karenina embodied this statement. Every single character was conflicted, particularly the protagonist Anna. Choosing family/son or love of her life? Part of society or outcast? There is hardly any black/white or good/bad dichotomy in Tolstoy. All characters are 3D, flawed and therefore very human.

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I think it was Faulkner who said that "only the human heart in conflict with itself is worth writing about". Anna Karenina embodied this statement. Every single character was conflicted, particularly the protagonist Anna. Choosing family/son or love of her life? Part of society or outcast? There is hardly any black/white or good/bad dichotomy in Tolstoy. All characters are 3D, flawed and therefore very human.

 

And that's what made him so good at what he did.

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Yes, as a pp said, please edit your post.

 

And...

I'm trying to figure out why there was an edited version of the book for elementary-aged kids with a different ending.   I did sometimes read abridgements/retellings of books (Treasure Island, a few others I can't remember now) to my kids when they were younger, or had the kids read them as a precursor to the "real thing" when they were ready for it.  But, this is clearly an adult book!  And, I can't see the value of something that has a significant change to a significant piece of the story!

 

Unless it was written by Tolstoy for a younger crowd?  Hard to imagine.

 

It definitely wasn't abridged.   I had sought out the longest book in the library.   I liked this title better than War and Peace, but those two were easily the longest books in the library.    I still have the exact book around somewhere.   In my life, there have been probably about 5 library books I still possess because I couldn't bring myself to turn them back in.  This was one of them.  

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What did you think of the way Tolstoy handled Anna's husband regarding religion?  If I was reading it correctly, it seemed like he fell in with a spiritualist crowd, but before that he was deeply, deeply hypocritical - he loved the justice side (against those who offended him) but had no idea of mercy or of being merciful. 

 

I thought Tolstoy was saying something about the spiritualist trend in his time, and not something complimentary.

It's been a while but I remember the part where he forgives her seems like a "real" religious moment, kind of his "Levin" moment. But the society he is living in doesn't have room for that and he doesn't have the personal strength to resist. I never really liked him, but it seems true to life ... the part about having a real Christian moment then backsliding. 

 

It's hard to write about this book without spoilers, I hope most people who haven't finished resist clicking!

Edited by tm919
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It's hard to write about this book without spoilers, I hope most people who haven't finished resist clicking!

 

True, and the thread title does say If you have read Anna Karenina. I would expect spoilers in a thread with that name and open it at my own risk.

Edited by Lady Florida
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And that's what made him so good at what he did.

Absolutely.

If I had to suggest only one book for an honest description of human nature, Anna Karenina would be it.

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The Keira Knightly movie was weird. Weird for me anyway. It had qualities that were fascinating, and yet qualities that were very odd, disjointed, and felt jumbled. Now that said, the art work was amazing, and it deserved accolades for that alone.

 

 

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The Keira Knightly movie was weird. Weird for me anyway. It had qualities that were fascinating, and yet qualities that were very odd, disjointed, and felt jumbled. Now that said, the art work was amazing, and it deserved accolades for that alone.

Has anyone seen the old BBC adaptation?

The book I have came out about when they made that and has the actress (Nicola Pagett) on the cover. I'll admit I'm not particularly eager to see the Kiera Knightley version after that disastrous version of P&P she was in...

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It definitely wasn't abridged.   I had sought out the longest book in the library.   I liked this title better than War and Peace, but those two were easily the longest books in the library.    I still have the exact book around somewhere.   In my life, there have been probably about 5 library books I still possess because I couldn't bring myself to turn them back in.  This was one of them.  

 

I'm thoroughly intrigued. An unabridged text with a re-written ending in an elementary school library? Though I can't imagine an abridged Anna Karenina either, as it is not a novel adaptable to elementary school children, imo.

 

I recently saw an "Anna Karenina" adult colouring book. I quickly flipped to the last page. Nope, not the train station. :lol:

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I'm thoroughly intrigued. An unabridged text with a re-written ending in an elementary school library? Though I can't imagine an abridged Anna Karenina either, as it is not a novel adaptable to elementary school children, imo.

 

I recently saw an "Anna Karenina" adult colouring book. I quickly flipped to the last page. Nope, not the train station. :lol:

😧

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What did you think of the characters? I loved the characters of Kitty and Levin and found they had depth and integrity. Anna and Vronsky, not so much. I was not drawn into their love story. I disliked Anna more and more as the book progressed. She left her son and never seemed to bond with her baby daughter. Her husband did not seem so awful as we got to know him. In fact, he seemed much more decent than her. Towards the end of the book we see her flirting with other men and she seems like she is mentally ill. Why does he name the book after her?

 

It was interesting to see into elite Russian society. Do you think the upper classes of many countries can be similar, ie. lots of parties, a somewhat superficial life, and affairs?

 

I think it was what the artistic / creative class of Russia, which romanticized peasant life, thought of the upper classes.

 

I don't think it was likely very representative, even if it was realistic for some individuals.

 

I think that it was written, as many Tolstoy novels were, as a cautionary tale regarding the dangers of city life, upper class life.

 

You're supposed to think, "Anna Karenina, too bad she fell prey to such a life. I guess I'll go sheave wheat and make pickles now, to avoid her fate."

 

And frankly it did kind of have that effect on me, LOL!

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I think it was what the artistic / creative class of Russia, which romanticized peasant life, thought of the upper classes.

 

I don't think it was likely very representative, even if it was realistic for some individuals.

 

I think that it was written, as many Tolstoy novels were, as a cautionary tale regarding the dangers of city life, upper class life.

 

You're supposed to think, "Anna Karenina, too bad she fell prey to such a life. I guess I'll go sheave wheat and make pickles now, to avoid her fate."

 

And frankly it did kind of have that effect on me, LOL!

That's a pretty funny moral for the story (;

 

I keep trying to figure out how to say your forum names ? Is it said how it's spelled it is it like tea sugar?

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I'm thoroughly intrigued. An unabridged text with a re-written ending in an elementary school library? Though I can't imagine an abridged Anna Karenina either, as it is not a novel adaptable to elementary school children, imo.

 

I recently saw an "Anna Karenina" adult colouring book. I quickly flipped to the last page. Nope, not the train station. :lol:

 

Yeah, I would love to know more about this edition.

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I read Anna Karenina in high school, so it has been a long time.

 

I liked Anna better than I liked Edna from The Awakening. I think I read the two books the same year. Anna's actions made more sense to me, even while I disagreed with her Tolstoy made me feel her emptiness, her surprised passion, her joy, her sorrow. So often other proto-feminist novels (The Awakening and Madame Bovary for instance) left me feeling completely cut off or frustrated with the main character. The counterpoint with Kitty and Levin was a relief to Anna's story, so she never frustrated me too much.

 

I think the epigraph said it all for me (from the Bible "Vengeance is mine. I will repay."). Human beings have no reason to judge or deal out punishment. Quite often we bring our own punishment upon us. You can see this as a Fate thing or 'what goes around comes around' or even 'we are our own worst enemies.' All of those worked for me in the context of the story.

Yes! I read awakening close to reading Anna and it is interesting! I actually really liked Edna in a lot of ways, I loved the scene with mademoiselle reisz checking her shoulder blades... But the theme of leaving or seeming not to have much affection for your children deserves, I think, a contextual consideration.

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I think it was what the artistic / creative class of Russia, which romanticized peasant life, thought of the upper classes.

 

I don't think it was likely very representative, even if it was realistic for some individuals.

 

I think that it was written, as many Tolstoy novels were, as a cautionary tale regarding the dangers of city life, upper class life.

 

You're supposed to think, "Anna Karenina, too bad she fell prey to such a life. I guess I'll go sheave wheat and make pickles now, to avoid her fate."

 

And frankly it did kind of have that effect on me, LOL!

Me too! While reading, I told my DH I was moving to Russia to cut grass😄

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