Monday, March 12, 2012

Passion vs. Rationality

I want to talk about the aborted relationship between Varenka and Levin’s half-brother, Sergei Ivanovich. 

We’ve talked in class about how Anna and Levin suffer from being too passionate.  Anna’s romance with Vronsky is based purely on her desire for excitement and on physical attraction.  I don’t see much that resembles love there, especially now that she is so worried about staying young-looking in order to keep his attention.

Levin always acts on his emotions, which makes his attempts at rational debates with his brother somewhat incoherent and hard to follow.  As Sydney was saying in her post, he lets his emotions get out of control and exaggerate the situations he finds himself in, even when he knows that he’s wrong, as in the confrontation with Veslovsky.

But Anna and Levin both have passion, so they’ve both found romances.

With Varenka and Sergei Ivanovich, they both feel that they love each other, but to me it seemed that they lacked passion.  Both Varenka and Sergei Ivanovich, but I think particularly Segei Ivanovich, let their rational sides silence their passionate sides, so in their moment alone neither of them is able to make the leap that would allow their romance to blossom. 

So, while Anna is clearly being punished for letting herself be ruled by passion, and Levin seems to suffer under his flurry of emotions, Tolstoy seems to be showing that a lack of passion won’t lead to happiness, either.
Do we see any characters walking the middle road in this novel?
I think Kitty might be one, but I’m not sure.


  1. This is an interesting thought. I think Kitty tends to be level-headed. She embraces passion but doesn't let it control her. A lack of passion is also seen perhaps in Vronsky? We've discussed how he is a blank character. I think it's important to discuss how Levin and Anna react in their passion, though. Levin falls in love with Kitty, and stays in love with her. He sometimes loses his temper, but generally does not let his passion destroy other aspects of his life. Anna completely lets passion rule her life, which leads her to be unhappy. I think the novel is showing that passion in life is necessary, but passion need not control one's life.

    1. I agree with you, Katy, and I think you've done a good job summing up the difference between Levin and Anna.