I had to force myself to stop reading when I finished part 5 and not continue reading part 6 - this book is getting so good! I know we are getting close to the climax and then the storyline/subplots will move quickly to the end.
I have heard from a few of you who are stuck in part 3. I can tell you to push through part 3 which is focused on agriculture, and is the toughest section to read. I can't decide if I liked part 4 or part 5 more!
Part five focuses on Kitty and Levin but we also get to see Anna having to deal with the ramifications of decisions she has made. For example, she visits her young son on his birthday (in secret). She can't believe how big he is getting and spends time reminiscing and looking at photos she has not yet seen. When Vronsky is looking at the photos Anna gets upset, feeling that boundaries are crossed or that he doesn't understand. He tells her this is very hard on him as well, they are both miserable.
We are using Oprah's discussion guide to help facilitate the dialog. the recap below is from her website.
Part Five: Love rushes in
When people sit down to talk about Anna Karenina, two central themes usually emerge: love and death. Perhaps one reason this novel has been so popular since it was first published is precisely because its major themes are two of the most universal and emotional situations human beings face. In Part Five, once his reader has passed the halfway mark and truly knows the characters, Tolstoy turns to these themes as a new focus for exploration.
In terms of love, Tolstoy brings to fruition, powerfully and completely, the love Kitty and Levin have for one another. Despite Levin's usual self-doubt and a newlywed fight or two, Kitty "became more tender towards him, and they experienced a new, redoubled happiness in their love," (p. 482) and Levin felt himself "rejoicing all the while at the feeling of her presence." (p. 483) This passion only grows deeper as the story progresses and Kitty takes full ownership of her role as wife and caretaker. As Kitty matures and owns her new life, her capacity to share her love with others seems to increase by the day.
Anna and Vronsky also strengthen their relationship, though it doesn't seem built on the same foundation that Levin and Kitty enjoy. Nevertheless, there is a strong connection between them. Despite their circumstances, hardships and her health issues, Anna feels that "the more she knew of Vronsky, the more she loved him. She loved him for himself and for his love of her." (p. 464) Even when they behave like ships passing in the night, it is hard to doubt the emotion between Anna and her dashing lover.
Beyond romantic love, in this section of the novel Tolstoy develops many other relationships—and deepens existing relationships—that display the diversity and depth of love. There is Levin's abiding and sometimes tortured love for his dying brother Nikolai. In compliment to this is Kitty's ability to embrace Levin's family by being a mature and competent nurse. Even in times of great crisis, she is steadfast and puts her love on the line. Additionally, the love between Anna and her son crescendos to a tearful reunion, "While they had been apart, and with that surge of love she had been feeling all the time recently, she had imagined him as a four-year-old boy, the way she had loved him most." (p. 533) With this reunion, Anna comes to realize the full extent of the power of her love for her son. And with all these relationships, the idea of love moves beyond simple courtship into a more nuanced, deeper, richer reality.
Love has the strength to alter events. It has the strength to change lives. It has become, by this point in the novel, a driving force behind almost every important action anyone takes. As Tolstoy's characters get better at recognizing their commitment to love, its strong force will become the making or breaking of each and every one.
Questions for Part 5:
1. In Part Five, both Vronsky and Levin are described as being "not as happy as they expected to be." From what you know of them, do you think their expectations were realistic? Both men are idealistic with love, especially Levin so I'm not surprised to find they are not has happy as they thought they would be. Vronsky makes a comment to someone that he considers Anna to be his wife and when she is sick he is distraught. Their relationship seems to take a turn after the illness though and at the end of part 5 I see where the storyline may be headed. I think Anna may not be happy with Vronsky in part 6 which will start the conclusion moving forward, we have just three parts remaining in the book.
2. Preparations for death play a big role in Part Five. Who do you feel handles Nikolai's final days well and who, if anyone, does not? I loved Kitty's reaction to the situation but I do understood were Levin was coming from to. Nilolai's death is the focus for part 5 and includes the only named chapter in the entire work.
Kitty, like most women in this time period, is comfortable in the role of caretaker. She taking care of Nikolai but also taking care of Levin and helping him work through his emotions.
I loved this statement, from Oprah's website: War might define a man's purpose; ministering to life and death defines a woman's. Levin literally feels death in his brother's bones, and doesn't know how to accept or express his love and fear.
It's only fitting for Kitty to discover she is pregnant in part 5.
3. The more you learn of Anna as a mother, what are your thoughts? What do you think about her attitude towards the baby, and how do you feel about her reunion with her son? If you are a parent, can you imagine making the choices Anna has? I talked about this a little at the beginning of this post. As I read part 5 I felt Anna's remorse for the situation and her desire to see her son, if only for a minute. The pages that told the story of Anna and her son's reunion were tender and loving. I felt for the boy when he opened his eyes as saw his mother in his room. I was also saddened when he realized she had to leave.
I can't imagine making the decisions Anna has made throughout the entire book, much less her opting to remove herself from her sons life without much of a fight.