Anna Karenina, Part III, chapter 13
This is the chapter where Alexey “knows” about Anna and Vronsky. He feels relief. At least that’s what he says.
He experienced the sensations of a man who has had a tooth out after suffering long from toothache. After a fearful agony and a sense of something huge, bigger than the head itself, being torn out of his jaw, the sufferer, hardly able to believe in his own good luck, feels all at once that what has so long poisoned his existence and enchained his attention, exists no longer, and that he can live and think again, and take interest in other things besides his tooth.
I can understand (a little bit) about the relief of knowing; sometimes what’s imagined can be worse than what’s real, but I hardly think the revelation of his wife’s infidelity will bring lasting relief. Maybe Alexey’s in denial?
When Christina, Jeannette, friends, and I discussed Crime and Punishment, I brought up the idea of stages of guilt. Really, I just took the stages of grief and changed them to guilt… grief/guilt over the murder. I wondered if Raskolnikov may have experienced them throughout the story. Maybe in our latest Russian novel Alexey is grieving the loss of his marriage? Will he go through the stages of grief?
As the AK chapter continues, Alexey considers his options: a duel, a divorce…
Then he shows anger; he wants Anna to suffer for what she has done; he wants her to “get due punishment for her crime.” He doesn’t admit this feeling to himself, but it’s there.
Alexey develops a plan. He will use religion to change Anna, forcing her “reformation and salvation“.
At the end of the chapter Alexey distances himself emotionally from the situation. As he considers his plan he thinks, “She is bound to be unhappy, but I am not to blame, and so I cannot be unhappy.”
I wondered if years ago the priest read this verse at the wedding of Alexey and Anna:
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
One flesh. Alexey and Anna were joined together in marriage and became one flesh.
He may feel momentary relief now that he’s aware of the affair, but how exactly does Alexey plan to be married to his unhappy wife and not be unhappy himself?