Lilac Haze

14 Nov

It seems I have an eye for seeing color in black and white.  First there was the whole popping green thing in Don Quixote.  And then I picked up some serious blue and yellow in Madame Bovary and Crime and Punishment.  (Yep, I have posts to write about them still.  Someday, someday.)

But the hue that painted it’s way through Anna Karenina is one that I can’t explain.  Can you help me?

What is the role of lilac in Tolstoy’s classic?

In case you need a bit of a reminder, here are the places the pale purplish makes a presence:

  • Kitty wanted Anna to wear lilac to the ball.  Instead she wore black.  Doesn’t that make you wonder, “what if . . . ?”
  • Vronsky’s friend Petrisky keeps company with the Baroness Shilton in a lilac dress when Vronsky returns from Moscow.
  • Princess Shtcherbatsky wears lilac ribbons in cap while dining at the health spa.
  • The midwife at Anna’s near-death birth experience also had lilac ribbons in her cap.
  • The priest wore a lilac vestments at Levin and Kitty’s wedding.
  • One of the guest at their wedding was also wearing lilac, which apparently was as bad as black.
  • Kitty wears a dark lilac dress during the first days of their married life.
  • Seryozha sees a woman in a lilac veil and hopes it is his mother.
  • When Anna sees Vronsky for the final time he is getting a parsel from a girl in a lilac hat.

Posted by on November 14, 2012 in Anna Karenina


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8 responses to “Lilac Haze

  1. Adriana @ Classical Quest

    November 14, 2012 at 6:16 am

    Glad you made a list Christina. I did notice the lilac thing and it IS quite mysterious!

    • Christina Joy

      November 14, 2012 at 2:07 pm

      I have the Kindle search feature to thank for my list-making skills.

  2. Jeannette

    November 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Lilac (purple) is a penitential color (at least when it comes to Lutheran vestments and alter cloths). Perhaps they had some need to repent. 🙂

    • Christina Joy

      November 14, 2012 at 2:07 pm

      That was my only guess, as well. Based on a really unscientific google search it looks like Russian Orthodox also use violet for Lent, which makes me wonder these things:
      1) Did Kitty and Levin really get married in Lent (in most liturgical practice this is disallowed.)
      2) Did the Russian word that we have translated “lilac” really mean “violet” because (and here’s my weirdo-liturgical-nuttiness coming out) the liturgical color is actually violet, a mixture of purple and black. Purple is for royalty and violet is for repentance, but I don’t know where lilac fits in to this mix.

  3. Jeannette

    November 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Nice list, by the way.

  4. Gina Monge

    November 14, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    I did read in a historical British novel once that lilac was an acceptable color to wear in mourning (once they had worn black for a certain amount of time). Foreshadowing??

    • Christina Joy

      November 14, 2012 at 5:14 pm

      That certainly makes sense of what those gossipy women at the wedding were saying about Maria wearing lilac, which was nearly as bad as black. So that would make foreshadowing sense.

  5. Christine

    November 16, 2012 at 7:59 am

    Thanks for the reminder. Reading your list I wondered, “How did I miss all of these?!”


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