Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"Very well! But I expect a strict observance of the external forms of propriety till such time" – his voice shook – "as I may take measures to secure my honor and communicate them to you." (2.29.42)
Karenin is mostly concerned with upholding the external demands of propriety. He's more concerned with how Anna's affair will affect his reputation than how it affects their marriage. This paints Karenin as a rather cold character; he doesn't seem to have loved his wife at all. We readers can't help but feel sympathy for Anna, realizing that she's been stuck in a loveless marriage.
"Really! what an idea! But tell me, how do the peasants look at it? I suppose they laugh in their sleeves at their master's being such a queer fish?" (3.4.16)
Levin's affinity for mowing with the peasants is yet another way in which he flaunts dominant social mores.
Vronsky was continually conscious of the necessity of never for a second relaxing the tone of stern official respectfulness, that he might not himself be insulted. The prince's manner of treating the very people who, to Vronsky's surprise, were ready to descend to any depths to provide him with Russian amusements, was contemptuous. His criticisms of Russian women, whom he wished to study, more than once made Vronsky crimson with indignation. The chief reason why the prince was so particularly disagreeable to Vronsky was that he could not help seeing himself in him. And what he saw in this mirror did not gratify his self-esteem. He was a very stupid and very self-satisfied and very healthy and very well-washed man, and nothing else. He was a gentleman – that was true, and Vronsky could not deny it. He was equable and not cringing with his superiors, was free and ingratiating in his behavior with his equals, and was contemptuously indulgent with his inferiors. Vronsky was himself the same, and regarded it as a great merit to be so. But for this prince he was an inferior, and his contemptuous and indulgent attitude to him revolted him.
"Brainless beef! can I be like that?" he thought. (4.1.6-7)
Vronsky is astonished and repulsed when coming face to face with a mirror image of his own conduct in society.