a new tormenting fear

The baby fell asleep in her arms. “Look now,” said Kitty, turning the baby towards him so that he could see him. The old-looking face suddenly wrinkled still more, and the baby sneezed.

Smiling, and barely keeping back tears of tenderness, Levin kissed his wife and left the darkened room.

What he felt for this small being was not at all what he had expected. There was nothing happy or joyful in this feeling; on the contrary, there was a new tormenting fear. There was an awareness of a new region of vulnerability. And this awareness was so tormenting at first, the fear lest this helpless being should suffer was so strong, that because of it he scarcely noticed the strange feeling of senseless joy and even pride he had experienced when the baby sneezed.

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An unaccustomed joy

Levin had been married for three months. He was happy, but not at all in the way he had expected. At every step he found disenchantment with his old dream and a new, unexpected enchantment. He was happy, but, having entered upon family life, he saw at every step that it was not what he had imagined. At every step he felt like a man who, after having admired a little boat going smoothly and happily on a lake, then got into this boat. He was that it was not enough to sit straight without rocking he also had to keep in mind, not forgetting for a minute, where he was going, that there was water underneath, that he had to row and his unaccustomed hands hurt, that it was easy only to look at, but doing it, while very joyful, was also very difficult.

Women’s rights in 19th century Russia

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While every unhappy family might be unhappy in its own way, women in 19th-century Russia could find solidarity in their plight. Like the majority of her European counterparts, a Russian woman’s father and husband controlled most aspects of her life. Even noblewomen, as portrayed by Anna Karenina, could not vote, hold their own passports, or attend high schools or universities — secondary education was unavailable to women until the 1850s, and higher education was unavailable until the 1870s. What little education high-born women received was largely vocational, amounting to skills in marriage, housekeeping, and motherhood. (From a Masterpiece Theater article; read more here.)

Oh, the joy of comfy clothes

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Kitty was having one of her happy days. Her dress was not tight anywhere, the lace bertha stayed in place, the rosettes did not get crumpled or come off; the pink shoes with high, curved heels did not pinch, but delighted her little feet. The thick braids of blond hair held to her little head like her own. All three buttons on her long gloves, which fitted but did not change the shape of her arms, fastened without coming off. The black velvet ribbon was enchanting, and at home, as she looked at her neck in the mirror, she felt it could almost speak. All the rest might be doubted, but the ribbon was enchanting.