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.
While he was governor of a province, Anna's aunt, a wealthy provincial lady, had thrown him – middle-aged as he was, though young for a governor – with her niece, and had succeeded in putting him in such a position that he had either to declare himself or to leave the town. Alexey Alexandrovitch was not long in hesitation. There were at the time as many reasons for the step as against it, and there was no overbalancing consideration to outweigh his invariable rule of abstaining when in doubt. But Anna's aunt had through a common acquaintance insinuated that he had already compromised the girl, and that he was in honor bound to make her an offer. He made the offer, and concentrated on his betrothed and his wife all the feeling of which he was capable. (5.21.9)
Karenin was forced to marry Anna because her aunt spread a rumor that Karenin had already been fooling around with Anna, which was definitely not allowed. Karenin and Anna's relationship was founded on deceit, social manipulation, and Karenin's desire to maintain a good reputation.
In spite of all his social experience Vronsky was, in consequence of the new position in which he was placed, laboring under a strange misapprehension. One would have thought he must have understood that society was closed for him and Anna; but now some vague ideas had sprung up in his brain that this was only the case in old-fashioned days, and that now with the rapidity of modern progress (he had unconsciously become by now a partisan of every sort of progress) the views of society had changed, and that the question whether they would be received in society was not a foregone conclusion. "Of course," he thought, "she would not be received at court, but intimate friends can and must look at it in the proper light." One may sit for several hours at a stretch with one's legs crossed in the same position, if one knows that there's nothing to prevent one's changing one's position; but if a man knows that he must remain sitting so with crossed legs, then cramps come on, the legs begin to twitch and to strain towards the spot to which one would like to draw them. This was what Vronsky was experiencing in regard to the world. Though at the bottom of his heart he knew that the world was shut on them, he put it to the test whether the world had not changed by now and would not receive them. But he very quickly perceived that though the world was open for him personally, it was closed for Anna. Just as in the game of cat and mouse, the hands raised for him were dropped to bar the way for Anna. (5.28.6)
Vronsky is surprised to realize the extent to which Anna is ostracized in society. At first he thought that times and morals had changed, particularly in his social group, and that their affair would be accepted. He believed that Anna's friends would stand by her. But this isn't the case. While Vronsky's reputation is undamaged, Anna is excluded from society.
Vronsky for the first time experienced a feeling of anger against Anna, almost a hatred for her willfully refusing to understand her own position. This feeling was aggravated by his being unable to tell her plainly the cause of his anger. If he had told her directly what he was thinking, he would have said:
"In that dress, with a princess only too well known to everyone, to show yourself at the theater is equivalent not merely to acknowledging your position as a fallen woman, but is flinging down a challenge to society, that is to say, cutting yourself off from it forever." (5.33.1-2)
Anna's determination to go to the opera will seal her fate as a fallen woman. Anna has rebelled against society by making her relationship with Vronsky public, but she doesn't seem to understand what has happened. Over time, this causes a huge conflict between Anna and Vronsky – she is excluded by society, but he isn't.