Friday, October 10, 2014

Anna Karenina: Anna

This is a continuation from last time focusing in on the character of Anna in Anna Karenina. This post could be a spoiler for the book. So if you want to find out what happens for yourself stop right here.

When the novel begins Anna is a bright shining star. When the reader is first introduced to her she has come to help save the marriage of her brother, the faithless Stiva, from the results of his own marital infidelity. She is vivacious and full of life, confident and concerned for others, resplendently beautiful, and sophisticatedly charming. Tolstoy's portrayal of her is nearly superhuman in all aspects. 

Anna begins to slip after the fateful night with Vronsky consummating their love. Where she was confident and selfless she begins to become more and more selfish. This is natural as she finds herself in a more and more untenable social position. Instead of confident she becomes more and more jealous and needy. Instead of distributing life and health wherever she goes, she begins to literally suck the life out of Vronsky and her other friends. By the end of the book she is thinking, saying, and doing crazy things. She is dependent on chemicals to cope with the realities of her life. She is unfeeling towards her own daughter. At one point she attempts to seduce Levin (a married man) into falling in love with her. Almost in the next moment she has forgotten him and is desperately clutching at Vronsky in an attempt to control him. Her parting words to him are cruel and vindictive. Finally she flings herself in front of a train in an attempt to escape, get revenge on Vronsky, and probably regain control of her life.

In Anna the reader sees most vividly the truth that sin leads to death. She, like Frou-Frou, literally lost her life because of her desire to follow her passionate attraction to Vronsky wherever it led. In the end she is left with nothing. Mocked in society, separated from her son, an increasing horror to her lover, Tolstoy's portrayal is realistic and cutting. At least two Biblical passages stand out in special regard to Anna...

"There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." Proverbs 14:12.
"Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." James 1:14-15.

If one accepts the novel as a true portrayal of how life works it seems that one cannot help but affirm the truth of Scripture in these two texts. Sin brings death. It often at the outset looks good and pleasurable but always reaps the same result. That is why the cross of Jesus is absolutely imperative, not only for eternal salvation, but also for deliverance from the force (sin)that will surely destroy everything and everyone that it touches. 

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