by Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Constance Garnett's translation in the "Quotes" section, but referred to Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation in other parts of the guide.
"I know more of the world than you do," [Anna] said. "I know how men like Stiva look at it. You speak of his talking of you with her. That never happened. Such men are unfaithful, but their home and wife are sacred to them. Somehow or other these women are still looked on with contempt by them, and do not touch on their feeling for their family. They draw a sort of line that can't be crossed between them and their families. I don't understand it, but it is so." (1.19.47)
Anna argues to Dolly that for men like Stiva, infidelity is never allowed to interfere with their home life. This is a socially acceptable form of infidelity. Interestingly, when Anna later commits adultery herself, her home and husband do not remain "sacred" to her. Her relationship with Vronsky does "cross the line between [her] and [her] family." Unlike Oblonsky, Anna leaves her family behind entirely, even giving up her son to be with Vronsky. Maybe this is part of the reason why society shuns Anna while accepting Oblonsky.
He was so far from conceiving of love for woman apart from marriage that he positively pictured to himself first the family, and only secondarily the woman who would give him a family. His ideas of marriage were, consequently, quite unlike those of the great majority of his acquaintances, for whom getting married was one of the numerous facts of social life. For Levin it was the chief affair of life, on which its whole happiness turned. And now he had to give up that. (1.27.3)
Although most of Levin's equals in society view marriage as yet another obligation, or part of social life, Levin takes marriage more seriously. This is another example of how Levin veers away from societal norms.
Vronsky heard with pleasure this light-hearted prattle of a pretty woman, agreed with her, gave her half-joking counsel, and altogether dropped at once into the tone habitual to him in talking to such women. In his Petersburg world all people were divided into utterly opposed classes. One, the lower class, vulgar, stupid, and, above all, ridiculous people, who believe that one husband ought to live with the one wife whom he has lawfully married; that a girl should be innocent, a woman modest, and a man manly, self-controlled, and strong; that one ought to bring up one's children, earn one's bread, and pay one's debts; and various similar absurdities. This was the class of old-fashioned and ridiculous people. But there was another class of people, the real people. To this class they all belonged, and in it the great thing was to be elegant, generous, plucky, gay, to abandon oneself without a blush to every passion, and to laugh at everything else.
For the first moment only, Vronsky was startled after the impression of a quite different world that he had brought with him from Moscow. But immediately as though slipping his feet into old slippers, he dropped back into the light-hearted, pleasant world he had always lived in. (1.34.16-17)
Vronsky divides society into two groups. He belongs to, and prefers, a hedonistic, carefree world of loose morals. He ridicules the other half of society, people that follow society's expected path of marrying and having children, considering them "old-fashioned," "ridiculous," and "stupid." Over the course of the novel, however, we see that Vronsky has misjudged his social group. Maybe there aren't two clear-cut groups. When his friends don't accept his intense, public affair with Anna, he beings to see them as "old-fashioned" as well. Check out the quote below on 5.28.6 for more on this.