By Anthony Thorlby
Professor ThorIby deals a detailed interpreting of this vintage novel and explores the sophisticated psychology in Tolstoy's characterisation. He avoids advanced terminology and assumes a readership learning the textual content in English translation.
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Extra info for Tolstoy: Anna Karenina
Three days before, Oblonsky had come home in a characteristically light-hearted mood, 'with a huge pear in his hand for his wife' - the kind of easy gesture he always expects will smooth his way through the world - to find Dolly holding the wretched note that revealed everything. His only reply to her angry and desperate questions had been to 'smile his habitual, kind, and somewhat foolish smile'. It must have made a memorable enough scene at the time, but as a scene in Oblonsky's memory it has assumed a quite distinct significance.
There is no obtrusive symbolism in any of these details, neither the rearing horse nor the entangled lace; but there is great emotional eloquence in Anna's bent head and in the movements of her fascinating hand, which we watch as Vronsky does - surely pausing in the doorway in the process, though the text does not say so. And we feel the effect upon Vronsky as she repeats the word 'love' slowly to herself, and then glances up into his face, suddenly, as she gets the lace disentangled. The significance of what she says to him we shall have occasion to consider later; at this moment he scarcely takes it in himself, but responds utterly to her physical presence and gesture and glance.
And he is transfixed. Tolstoy does not actually say any such thing, of course; he simply describes what happens - or rather he renders his description of Anna as a kind of emotional happening. Her appearance seems to be an event, her very face seems to be alive with action: she too turns her head; her eyes rest on Vronsky, their thick lashes make them seem dark, but they are shining, and so attentive and friendly, that she seems to recognize him. Or does all that only seem so to him; is this an event in his mind?