That took FOREVER. Over eight hundred pages and two whole semesters later, I can finally say that I have completely read an entire work by Leo Tolstoy. I am so proud of myself, and the best part is that it was IN NO WAY a waste of time, reading that book.
Tolstoy lived during a time when the family unit was beginning to fall under a lot of scrutiny and ridicule. For many, families weren't the solution to society's problems anymore. Love between couples didn't always last. Divorce became more acceptable and frequent. Tolstoy, however, believed that the family had an important role in society. He shared a lot of similar beliefs that members of the LDS Church have about divorce and family relationships. He also had strong feelings about equality in society, as well as the Russian systems of government. I won't go into the political can of worms, but I'd like to talk a little bit more about the more social aspects discussed in Anna Karenina.
Anna Karenina is all about relationships. Relationships that work, and relationships that don't work. Tolstoy begins his novel by saying, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." He then backs up this profound statement by telling the stories of a series of characters who form relationships with each other. Even though they all have different circumstances, I see that they all have one thing in common: They are all seeking happiness for themselves, and almost all of them fail miserably at finding it. Anna ends up super paranoid that Vronsky's going to abandon her. Dolly becomes this jaded and miserable woman who doesn't understand her husband. Oblonsky falls into debt. Vronsky is so worked up about his image in society that he kind of ignores the really important problems that are going on at home. Kitty ends up getting her heart broken hard-core when Vronsky picks Anna over her. Shortly put, there are lots of unhappy people in this novel, and they all become unhappy for a variety of reasons, just as Tolstoy hypothesized.
BUT.. there is one couple in the novel that ends up happy in the end. That is Levin and Kitty. Why? What is that thing that they share with other happy families? I think Tolstoy hits on the answer to that question in the last few pages of his book. My favorite character in the book is Levin, because he's always so sincere and meek and he just wants to make the world a better place. He's falls in love with Kitty, and after a lot of pursuing, he finally wins her and they end up married. But then he learns pretty fast that marriage ain't one big picnic and he still has the same insecurities and problems that he had before. Levin is struggling over the moral dilemma of how to treat the poor, and he wonders if there really is a God out there who cares. After months of depression and confusion, Levin finally has this epiphany and learns that TRUE happiness comes from TRUE goodness, and TRUE goodness is free from selfishness and thought of reward. We shouldn't be doing good things in order to avoid a punishment or to get a blessing. We should just be good because good is good. It has nothing to do with what we want, or what someone else wants, or what the world wants. We just need to care about what God, who is the ultimate epitome of goodness, wants. It's a "My will, not thy will" philosophy. And that's the key to a happy life and a happy marriage. If both you and your spouse are working to do what God wants you to do, you'll be happy together. Levin soon finds out that it's not as easy as it sounds, being good ALL the time, but as long as you've got the right attitude, you're trying hard, and you have the goal in mind, you can be assured that you will be able to find happiness in any situation.
On the more negative flip side, there are characters in the book who THINK they can find happiness by being selfish and only caring about fulfilling their own desires, but that only leads to a world of instability, heartache, and misery. Look at Anna. She thought that she'd be happy with Vronsky, but by having the affair she lost the respect of people she cared about, and she was forever separated from her son (who was a much more true source of happiness), and she ended up killing herself out of jealousy and revenge for something Vronsky never did. What I've learned from Anna is this: Disobedience and dishonesty eventually will lead to bad things. There's a very practical thing that I sort of wish couples today could understand. If you are unfaithful to your spouse or partner, who's to say that the person you're cheating with won't up and betray you just as quickly? And really, deep down, I think Anna knew that what she did was wrong, and you just can't be happy if you're living in constant guilt and shame. Furthermore, I think another reason why Anna and Vronsky failed was because they didn't really communicate. Vronsky tried really hard, but Anna never really said exactly what was on her mind. She'd just get mad for no apparent reason. How do you think that made Vronsky feel? The key here is this: You need to actually TELL your husband what's wrong. If you have a problem, talk about it. Be candid. Say how you feel. Be specific. If you bottle up your feelings, you may end up going stinking crazy like Anna did. You may not end up throwing yourself under a train, but I'll tell ya, it's a miserable existence when you constantly feel misunderstood. You don't have to feel that way.
This book hit on a lot of subjects that I think are very important for us today. It's definitely shaped the way I go about my relationships with my roommates, my family, and my boyfriend. I think good novels reveal truth about the human experience. Anna Karenina definitely does this for me.
Remember those pictures of Kierra Knightly and Jude Law that I posted? The reason why I used them as clues for guessing this book is because there is a MOVIE being made based off of this novel. It's currently in post-production and is set to release on the Ninth of November. Kierra, of course, is playing Anna and Jude Law is going to be her husband Karenin. Check out this picture! It's so epic!! I'm SO EXCITED.
Listening to: "All Alone" by Fun.
Blessings: Three-day Weekends.
Learned: Leo Tolstoy had thirteen children. He was born in 1828 and he died at a Railway station (which is ironic... That's where Anna died.) in 1910. This was right before the Communist revolution in 1917. I wonder how Tolstoy felt about the Communists.
Things Going On Today: A barbecue... or maybe a recital. I don't know which one I'm going to yet.