This weekend I read Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. It was an easy read and while it got very detailed I never skimmed or skipped sections because all of it told more about who the character was.
It is really two stories in one. The story of Anna and her affair and how she and that portion of society throw off the traditions and conventions in an attempt to be more free and unencumbered by concerns about what others think or how others feel. Anna walks out of her marriage and abandons her son, but never truly trusts the love and commitment of her lover. Perhaps if they had been able to be married, but wouldn’t that have been a convention? Her story ends with a very detailed and moving description of depression and how debilitating it is. And the depression, in part, seems to be due to that loss of convention that would reassure her of who she is and where she is and what she can count on. Aided definitely by the fact that outside of her lover she had no identity or reassurance of what her purpose was. In short, no relationship with a Savior.
The other story is that of Levin, a land owner who is fascinated by trying to make farming work, with tools, techniques, and the native Russian workers. He deals with resistance to change (we’ve always done it this way) and laziness (it’s easier to do it this way and then sneak in a break) and ridicule from upper society that doesn’t understand why he would want to work, but also tries to impose idealistic solutions for improving the lower class.
Tolstoy was a Christian and Levin is also searching for God, even when he thinks he’s comfortable with no belief in a higher power. Many of the other characters are also searching or confronted with their empty faith. It is interesting to see how prevalent church attendance was in Russia once.