How often he [Vronsky] had told himself that her love was
happiness; and now she loved him as a woman can love when love has
outweighed for her all the good things of life—and he was much further
from happiness than when he had followed her from Moscow. Then he had
thought himself unhappy, but happiness was before him; now he felt
that the best happiness was already left behind. She was utterly
unlike what she had been when he first saw her. Both morally and
physically she had changed for the worse.…He looked at her as a man
looks at a faded flower he has gathered, with difficulty recognizing
in it the beauty for which he picked and ruined it. And in spite of
this he felt that then when his love was stronger, he could if he had
greatly wished it, have torn that love out of his heart; but now, when
as at that moment it seemed to him he felt no love for her, he knew
that what bound him to her could not be broken.
This quote, from Chapter 3 of Part IV of Anna Karenina, is set
as Vronsky and Anna are responding individually to her revelation of
her affair to her husband, Alexey Alexandrovitch.
to the unbreakable bonds of his human alliance in misfortune with
Anna. Calling this emotion ‘love,’ and this story a ‘love story’ is
completely understating the obvious, that love is just a short band of
the range of emotional frequencies on which human beings relate.
Tolstoy uses Anna and Vronsky’s terrifying and doomed love, as
contrasted with the paralleling sedate and constructive love of Levin
and Kitty, to explore human emotions at the point where they are
rubbed raw. It takes careful and deliberate writing to get the novel
to such a point, the point at which we know Anna and Vronsky’s tragedy
on many different levels and can see how it has affected their entire
society: a couple pages earlier Anna is even described as “a real
heroine of romance” in conversation with her friend Betsy Tverskaya.
If she could only know how true that epithet has proven to be.