Friday, March 2, 2012
Frou Frou and the Fate of Women
We talked in class about the role of Frou Frou the horse being symbolic of Anna and Vronsky's relationship, and we've come to the point where I doubt any of us are expecting a happy ending to the novel. Frou Frou was a young, nervous, but beautiful horse, and Vronsky led it to a violent death. I see this horse representing not only Anna, but other women in the novel like Dolly and Kitty. Race horses are used vigorously for a short time, then retired to a life in the pasture. This reads to me like a frenzied courtship and marriage, then the sort of anticlimax of family life. Dolly and Stiva, who married for love, certainly now have a relationship of entrapment, of having no way out, but also of complacency. Dolly is very much described as sort of a used-up race horse, she's a "worn-out, aged, no longer beautiful woman, not remarkable for anything, simple, merely a kind mother of a family." (3) Anna and Kitty are in the throes of such courtships. Kitty, we see after Vronsky leaves her, is ill and hollow, recovering slowly, and Anna is becoming ruined in society. The race of courtship is running them down, and even should they succeed in marriage, they have only fading beauty and usefulness to look forward to. Levin is not the same sort of courter as Stiva and Vronsky surely were, but we have no evidence of his love of Kitty being any more than a desire based on physical attraction. Frou Frou the horse would have had a complacent life after her racing days were over, but are we meant to see that future, Dolly's life, as desirable? Or was it better for Frou Frou to be cut down in her prime of life rather than suffer the slow degradation of time? What do you think lies in store for Anna and Kitty?