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The Love Affair between Anna Karenina and Vronsky
A Famous and Infamous Love Affair - Anna Karenina
“In the eyes of society ... the role of a man who was pursuing a married woman, and who made it the purpose of his life at all cost to draw her into adultery, was one which in it had something beautiful and dignified.” This is Vronsky’s point of view in Part 2 Chapter 4 . However, Vronsky’s stated purpose when reached does not seem to him or to Anna beautiful and dignified.
Part 2 of Chapter 11 begins where Vronsky and Anna disengage after consummating their love. At what should be a most unified and intimate juncture, the characters instead appear to be spiritually and mentally alienated from each other. They are each individually, but most specifically Anna, experiencing extreme and volatile emotions ranging from horrified to blissful.
The words "horror" and "naked" are repeated in the passage. The concepts of guilt, shame and blame are repeated. Vronsky makes a reference to God as Anna trembles, and feels as if he is a murderer who has just committed the act of murder, while Anna feels spiritually naked and pleads, “God forgive me.” Even though both Anna and Vronsky are experiencing shame loss of dignity, they are not responding in the exact same way to their physical union and they are both concealing the bulk of their feelings within their own heads. They are not sharing their feelings unreservedly with each other. There is a rift between them in their individual responses to this milestone event in their relationship. When Vronsky mentions his "bliss,” Anna replies wish disgust that he should not say another word. At this point, Anna “rose quickly and moved away from him." There is now physical distance between them.
I cannot help but interpret the imagery of this scene as prefiguring their relationship’s tragic future. Revisiting this chapter causes me to reflect on the events to come in their future where jealousy creeps in to their relationship and misunderstandings are rife, culminating in the tragedy of Anna’s suicide.
After Anna departs, and during the days that follow when she is alone with her thoughts which become more complex, she turns to denial as a means to survive her own emotions and live through the "horror" she is experiencing. This is where I believe Anna's character employs the method of driving thoughts of self-awareness and realism out of her mind (noted when she screws up her eyes and changes each uncomfortable subject as it arises) and adopting a delusional outlook of denial towards the complications that exist in her life. This is the birth of the rift within herself which renders her prone to insecurity, self-doubt and destructive jealousy. She lives in denial during her waking hours and is tortured by nightmares during her sleeping hours.
That Anna is temporarily consoled by her recurring dream in which she has two consensual husbands (in the last paragraph of Chapter 11) and wakes up as if from a nightmare is striking in that it symbolises her internal confusion, the rift inside her, and her ensuing delusional behaviour. The dream represents the only solution in which Anna can escape from reality and live both the life of mother to Serezha and lover to Vronsky.
It is profound to me that both Anna and Vronsky, after consummating their adulterous love, instinctively call on God and involve him in their time of turmoil, even as Levin turns to God during his wife's long and painful labour, later on in the novel.