In (Vronsky’s) Petersburg world people were divided into two quite opposite sorts. One – the inferior sort; the paltry, stupid and, above all, ridiculous people who believe that a husband should live with the one wife to whom he is married, that a maiden should be pure, a woman modest, and a man, manly, self-controlled and firm; that one should bring up one’s children to earn their living, should pay one’s debts, and other nonsense of that kind. These were the old-fashioned and ridiculous people. But there was another sort of people; the real people to which all his set belonged, who had above all to be well-bred, generous, bold, gay and to abandon themselves unblushingly to all their passions and laugh at everything else.
Doesn’t this sound like a reflection of society today? “Traditional values” are scorned and ridiculed, while careless, selfish living is idealized. When I read this quote I was stunned by the timeliness of it. You could easily substitute “2012 America” for “Vronsky’s Petersburg,” don’t you think? So what is the result of these behaviors among the St. Petersburg elite? We will see…and maybe we can apply it to America too.
(Oh, and if you think that is bad, how about this quote from Part 2, Chapter 5? “…the role of a man who was pursuing a married woman, and who made it the purpose of his life at all cost to draw her into adultery, was one which had in it something beautiful and dignified and could never be ridiculous…” Beautiful? Dignified? So why then, do Anna and Vronsky keep experiencing feelings of “revulsion” after their affair? Chapter 21 – “A strange feeling of revulsion against something sometimes overcame him.” Chapter 22 – “…that strange feeling of unreasoning revulsion which had of late come to him.” “It brought on with ten-fold force an attack of that strange repulsion…” I guess conscience doesn’t listen to the Society Gazette.)