JAN / FEB 2016: BY VERONICA LEIGH
Leo Tolstoy wrote the multi-faceted novel, Anna Karenina as somewhat of a cautionary tale. The romance between Anna and her lover Vronsky was ill-fated from the start, yet since the novel was published, the passion between the two has been glorified as “true love.” Somehow committing adultery and abandoning your spouse and child and living in exile with a lover is romantic. There is a lesser-known story in Anna Karenina, the one of Levin and Kitty. Levin and Kitty plays second-fiddle to Anna and Vronsky, however, it’s their love that endures and survives. While their romance is smiled upon by society, maybe considered “boring” by the world’s standards, and has its ups and down, theirs embodies the notion of “true love” in its purest form.
Konstantin Levin had known the Shcherbatsky family since he was young and wanted nothing more than to be a member of it. Overtime he falls in love with the youngest Shcherbatsky daughter, Kitty, and though there is a gap between their ages, contrasting religious beliefs and opposite temperaments, their differences would complement each other. Unfortunately for Levin, Kitty’s head has been turned by the handsome and charming Alexei Vronsky…the same Vronsky who ends up having an affair with Anna Karenina. Vronsky flirts with Kitty, leading her to believe that he feels more for her than what he really does.
When Levin does work up the courage to propose to Kitty and she turns him down, he is devastated and retreats from society, secluding himself on his farm. Kitty expects a proposal from Vronsky and is confused when he pulls away and takes up with the married Anna Karenina. Her disappointment leads to sickness…heart sickness. She soon realizes that she had turned away a good and honest man, one that she could have had a future with.
Levin is determined to hate Kitty for refusing him, but his love for her won’t allow him. He comes to understand that perhaps he had not been the most dedicated suitor, distancing himself at times when he should have made his intentions clear.
Stiva, Levin’s friend, intervenes and does a little matchmaking, which leads to Levin and Kitty socializing once more. Via a game of letters, Levin relays his love to Kitty and proposes once more. This time Kitty accepts. However, the course of true love does not run smooth for these two, as it rarely does in real life. Levin feels he must be honest with his future wife about the more sordid details of his past and therefore shows Kitty his diary. Although upset, Kitty forgives him of his sins. On the day of the wedding, Levin gets cold feet and is about to call it off when Kitty convinces him that she loves him and wants to marry him. The wedding goes on without a hitch.
Levin and Kitty are generally happy, though their union isn’t perfect. Levin is used to a solitary life whilst Kitty wants to spend all of her time with him and is more social. Their love is put to the test when Levin learns that his brother is on his deathbed. He has no intention of bringing Kitty, but she insists and is a comfort when his brother passes away. Their struggles are rewarded with the birth of their firstborn son. Though frightened by the prospect of being a father, Levin falls in love with his child.
Like Anna Karenina, Levin has personal troubles, including an identity crisis. Anna Karenina refuses to give up her lover, despite her husband’s threats and eventual forgiveness. She leaves her husband and son behind and runs off to be with Vronsky. Her choice is not without its consequences. Anna is ostracized by society, whereas Vronsky is free to go where he pleases. Feeling isolated, she falls into a deep depression and when her love for him is no longer enough to live for, she throws herself in front of a train.
Levin struggles through his own bouts of depression and searches for the meaning of life. In the past he had been a skeptic of God and of the Russian Orthodox Church. He eventually makes his peace with God and finds his own happy ending with his family. It’s the story of Levin and Kitty that stands out to me. Their love is unconditional and won’t fade over time.