Hence, it seems that Anna Karenina presents us with an assortment, a display, as it were, of "forms of life": Anna's life of passion, Vronsky's life of indolence, Karenin's work-dictated life, Levin's thoughtful, reflective, life, Dolly's life, dedicated to aiding others, Stiva's life of pleasant hedonism, Nikolai's life of asceticism followed by extreme excess and squalor, etc. (The list goes on...) What are we to make of the variety of ways of life with which Tolstoy presents us? To reference Alosha's post earlier this week, which ways of life are "real" for Tolstoy; what is "a real life"? Should we look to Levin's life as a model, or at least as a closer approximation to the actual model (if, indeed, there is one) than others, in spite of Levin's own shortcomings (given that, of all the characters, Levin seems to most resemble the introspective heroes which Tolstoy presented in War and Peace)? How do these ways of life "stand up" or fare, respectively, in the face of the novel's deaths and near-deaths, in particular that of Nikolai?
Friday, April 18, 2014
Forms of Life
One motif which has been repeated throughout the novel so far is the desire "to live." We see this with Anna throughout her affair with Vronsky, from the beginning when she wants an actual life containing passion and love, and also when she is living with Vronsky, in a conversation with Dolly (616). Dolly likewise expresses an understanding of Anna's desire "to live" and to "love and be loved in a real way" in her reflections on the way to visit Anna and Vronsky in Book VI (608). Similarly, we see Vronsky pursuing a "life" through attempts at independence and activity outside of his relationship with Anna; Karenin, also, finds a "life" in his work. Likewise, Levin forms a life out of reflection, intellectual and physical work, and family life with Kitty.