Balls are bad news.
Why do I say this?
Let’s think back. The first ball we attended as classics readers was in Pride and Prejudice. It was not a pleasant experience for Lizzy Bennett, our main character. Darcy insulted her saying, “she is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me.” At the second ball things weren’t much better. Lizzy suffered through dances with Mr. Collins. She ended up dancing with Darcy and had a terribly awkward conversation with him about Wickham. Later that evening her mother and sister Mary each did things that brought embarrassment to the Bennett family.
In the end, Darcy and Elizabeth have the fairy tale ending, so perhaps we should look at another book and another ball.
How about Madame Bovary? There’s a ball in that book. The honeymoon was over for the Bovarys. Emma was quickly disappointed in her dull, clumsy spouse, so when a wealthy patient invitesd the newlyweds to their ball, Emma was delighted. Instead of dancing with her husband (who snoozes in the corner wearing pants too tight for dancing), Emma danced with a viscount. The same viscount later dropped his cigar box. which Emma kept. She held on to it dreaming of (and scheming to get) the beautiful, wealthy, decadent, extravagant (pick your favorite adjective) life she could have had.
Remember the end of this book? Emma took arsenic, chosing to die rather than face the enormous debt she had run up in her search for (shallow/material) happiness.
And now back to our current book, Anna Karenina… Remember that ball? Kitty danced waltzes with Count Vronsky, sure that a proposal of marriage was not far off. Anna arrived in her stunning black dress. Kitty watched Anna and Vronsky interact. She saw Anna’s sparking eyes and happy smile. Kitty knew exactly what was happening.
“No, it’s not the admiration of the crowd has intoxicated her, but the adoration of one. And that one? can it be he?”
Kitty was crushed when Vronsky did not ask her to dance the Mazurka. It was going to be the dance that decided her future, and it never happened. Anna chose not stay for supper, but the damage was done. Vronsky was now infatuated with the married woman, and Kitty was forgotten.
Now in the end everything turned out happily ever after for Kitty, but we know how things ended up for Anna.
I repeat. Balls are bad news.