*If you intend to read Anna Karenina this blog entry may contain spoilers*
–This is my reading of the book and my thoughts
“A peasant who can read and write is more useful to you and is worth more.” – Koznyshev
“….A peasant who can read and write is far worse as a labourer.”- Levin
Reading Anna Karenina is a lot like being subjected to the lavish and pompous ceremony that is the royal wedding. An event that reminds us that the age of austerity exists only for the poor. I was reminded of a few things that are now considered luxuries as we can no longer afford to be ill. A few things on the list include; Dental care; Eye care; Bus travel I remember reading in The Metro that someone couldn’t afford a television licence, something that will certainly be needed to get a front seat to this wonderful occasion. I had felt great sympathy for Levin-at the beginning of Anna Karenina- after suffering a harsh rejection in favour of someone not nearly as sensitive. I feel it less as I read on because he exhibits the belief that most in high positions have for the working class. He argues against education but is unable to explain exactly why. Despite living close to the peasants and enjoying the freedom of a life working out in the fields he remembers his place. He is a member of the gentry and warns his friend Oblonksky, against allowing the lowers reaching the same position he holds. He appears threatened by those who are given a little power beneath him, the baliff, who, is constantly coming against his plans. There is a hint of revolt as the upper class shift between immoral acts and ignorance towards their duties.
Published 1873-1877 it isn’t surprising that the Russian revolution came about in 1905 if this is the representation of the ruling class. The quotes above are a discussion between the two brothers Levin, and Koznyshev. After this Levin enjoys a day working out in the field where the time passes him by. He then consumes bread and water right out of a cup, how delicious. I believe that we are meant to believe that the peasants are happy in their ignorance. What good is education to these simple folk who just need a scythe and a field to play out their fantasies. I have to wonder at times whether Tolstoy is serious, does he honestly believe that true happiness can be found for these men who toil for their whole lives and see their efforts benefit only their master?
There is a review on Goodreads that says the following;
When the Russian elite first read this idyll to their vanity, they must have fallen headlong into the reflecting pool right after Narcissus. For now, you see, not only are they rich and powerful, but according to Tolstoy they’re also supremely virtuous….
There isn’t enough confetti in the UK to blind us from the inequality that is opening an chasm between the classes. A commenter on the Guardian pointed out that those who have benefited from the opportunities of the past are pulling the ladder up after them. To pretend that the royal family or any celebrity is ‘just like us’ is ridiculous. The debate about internships shows that any change was really imaginary. The ruling class want to own opinion and wonder why no one wants to buy it. Those who are still in employment are fatigued from working without end, earning a pittance and then being told to be grateful. Is the wedding really enough to distract us from our empty purses and petty bosses? This post about Gwyneth Paltrow says it best;
It seems like there used to be an unspoken pact between those who were born into privilege and the rest of us to keep all out class warfare from breaking out. They would quietly go about spending their money in respectable, socially beneficial ways—philanthropies and such—and we wouldn’t publicly point out that the only way they got their job, record deal, book deal, political appointment etc. was because of the last name of their parent or their spouse.
So I hope the royal family enjoy their wedding but I request that we aren’t forced to pretend. Money may not buy happiness but being without can leave you downright miserable. The wedding may not be responsible for upset among the students, people who have lost funding and parents in general, it just represents what is wrong with the world. I would pray for a revolution but after watching Animal Farm-based on the book by George Orwell-I am reminded of the end result.
*I haven’t finished Anna Karenina and despite Levin’s opinions he is my favourite character, I can identify with him*
(I am on a constant loop between caring about the Royal wedding and wishing they would stop going on about it.)