When you started reading Anna Karenina did you know what was going to happen to our main character in the end?
If you haven’t finished the novel, back away slowly. This post gives it all away.
I knew. Before we ever started reading Tolstoy, I knew. If taking a GRE had been a prerequisite to starting this DIY master’s degree program, I would have aced the question, “How does Anna Karenina die?”
It’s not because I’m a smarty-pants. It was simply a part of my general knowledge. Random literary stuff I’d heard at one point or another. Like how I knew there was a guy named Ishmael in Moby-Dick , or that Hester had to wear an “A” for adultery, or that Oliver Twist would say, “Please sir, may I have some more?”
So? Why all the rambling?
I felt cheated out of the end of Anna Karenina. I knew she was going to commit suicide a lá train, and it was just a matter of when it was going to happen.
When it did finally happen (and I do mean finally–when do editors come on the scene?), I wasn’t moved by the act at all. My thoughts were more of, “Yep. Anna’s dead. That’s a bummer. Wonder what’s going to happen to Vronsky now.”
I realize I’m avoiding all sorts of issues with Anna’s death: Was she suffering from mental illness? Would Vronsky have eventually tired of her jealousy and left her? Was she remorseful in the moment before she died? Why did Tolstoy kill her off? Had it come to the point of logical exhaustion for the character? Is her death the fulfillment of the Scripture passage at the beginning of the book?
Oh, there are so many questions we could discuss.
But what I’m really wondering is there anyone out there that read the book not knowing about Anna’s demise beforehand? and if so, what was your reaction?
Now stay with me. I’ll come to a question. Eventually.
My family is one that reads. Lots. We are a family that reads a book together in the evenings and listens to audio books in the car. One of my absolute favorite family memories involves my husband reading aloud to us by flashlight while we camped. I have to say that having my children witness me working through the WEM list is a good thing. It has to be. They see mom reading (always a bonus). They see mom journaling: taking notes, asking questions, thinking hard.
They too know that Oliver asked for more, and that Gulliver met talking horses. They know that Christian made it to the Celestial City and that Madame Bovary died. Some of these things they know because they learned them by reading the books themselves and some of them have “rubbed off” because it’s what I’m reading and I talk about the current book, and they ask me questions.
Someday when they have to read Anna Karenina and they already know that she dies, will this add to or take away from their reading experience. Will they think, “Hey, I know something about this story! This is going to be great!” or “Oh, man. I knew she was a goner from the beginning. Why bother reading this?”
What do you think?