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.
But as time went on, he saw more and more distinctly that however natural the position now seemed to him, he would not long be allowed to remain in it. He felt that besides the blessed spiritual force controlling his soul, there was another, a brutal force, as powerful, or more powerful, which controlled his life, and that this force would not allow him that humble peace he longed for. He felt that everyone was looking at him with inquiring wonder, that he was not understood, and that something was expected of him. Above all, he felt the instability and unnaturalness of his relations with his wife. (4.19.3)
Karenin is comfortable in his current situation, but he knows that society will force him to do something about Anna's adultery, even though he himself has made peace with it. For more on this topic, check out Karenin's "Character Analysis."
"I am very grateful to you for your confidence, but..." he said, feeling with confusion and annoyance that what he could decide easily and clearly by himself, he could not discuss before Princess Tverskaya, who to him stood for the incarnation of that brute force which would inevitably control him in the life he led in the eyes of the world, and hinder him from giving way to his feeling of love and forgiveness. He stopped short, looking at Princess Tverskaya. (4.19.48)
For Karenin, Princess Betsy embodies all the societal pressures and forces that are bending him to act in a direction contrary to his true feelings. He wants to forgive Anna (and we want him to forgive Anna!), but Betsy is pushing him in a different direction. You can learn more about Karenin's conflict over how to treat Anna in his "Character Analysis."
He felt that he could not endure the weight of universal contempt and exasperation, which he had distinctly seen in the face of the clerk and of Korney, and of everyone, without exception, whom he had met during those two days. He felt that he could not turn aside from himself the hatred of men, because that hatred did not come from his being bad (in that case he could have tried to be better), but from his being shamefully and repulsively unhappy. He knew that for this, for the very fact that his heart was torn with grief, they would be merciless to him. He felt that men would crush him as dogs strangle a torn dog yelping with pain. He knew that his sole means of security against people was to hide his wounds from them, and instinctively he tried to do this for two days, but now he felt incapable of keeping up the unequal struggle. (5.21.5)
Here society is painted as cruel, eager to "crush him" and tear him to pieces. Karenin lacks the inner strength to stand up to societal contempt. Anna certainly faces a similarly cruel society, one that treats her as an outcast.