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Extra resources for Novels for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels Volume 28
If they attempt to ride on top of the train (that is, to be above society) they will surely end by being crushed beneath it, as, in fact, the fate of Anna demonstrates. It seems to be a case of acceptance of the social or death. Third, the social is a powerful force, as suggested by the earth-shaking strength of the engine and the great speed of the train. Fourth, it must be remembered that the social also has its attractive features. These are suggested by the warmth, comfort, and security inside the carriage on Anna’s return journey to Petersburg in I, 29.
Vro´nsky also grows colder towards Anna over time. When Kitty becomes deeply enamored with the devoted and apparently virtuous Madame Stahl, she commits herself very quickly to a life of piety, devotion, and charity. Her father points out to Kitty, however, that Madame Stahl is not so much an angel of virtue as she is a vain woman, bedridden by choice in order to conceal her stubby and unsightly legs. Thus, if Kare´nin is painfully closed off, hiding behind appearance and surface, then Anna and Kitty live openly in their interaction with things as they appear at the surface.
The wind is the most significant detail of the exterior setting. Immediately following Vronskij’s statement of his love for Anna, the text continues: ‘‘At that moment the wind, as if it had mastered all obstacles, scattered the snow from the carriage roofs . . The awfulness of the storm appeared still more beautiful to [Anna] now. ’’ (I, 30). The passage is replete with paradoxical contrasts. The interior of the train is comfortable yet somehow repellent, the exterior is awful but attractive (as shown by Anna’s resting her forehead against the cold glass of the carriage window), and these conflicting feelings are bound up with the clearly divided nature of Anna herself: what her soul desires, her reason dreads.