Anna Karenina Made Me View Maria Bertram-Rushworth and Mary Crawford Differently

So my second year in college I took a history class, History 202-16th Century to Modern times, with a Professor O’Malley. Professor O’Malley loved Russian history, and that was his forté, so we spent a lot of class discussing Russia, reading Russian novels, and watched a Russian film.

Hmm…

One thing Professor O’Malley would say is that (and I’m paraphrasing)

“Russian stories are not like Jane Austen. They all end sadly. Austen would have figured out a way to make it be happily-ever-after.”

Now whether or not you or I agree with that statement (feel free to comment below what you think about it)-two things have always stuck with mew. 1) Professor O’Malley either read or watched an Austen book or movie (or read about her work) and 2) every time I read or watch a Russian novel or film-I always think is this like Jane Austen or the opposite of her?

Hmmm…

I have never read the book Anna Karenina, but it is on my to-read list. I haven’t gotten to it yet because it is a gigantic book and I know that with the Russian literature the characters use multiple names, so confusing, so I’ve just stalled from it.

I have always wanted to see the film though-the 1948 Vivian Leigh one. I cannot stand Keira Knightley and will avoid her films as much as possible because I think she is a horrible actor.

As an actress not a person.

So even though Mr. O’Malley didn’t think that Russian literature had anything to do with Jane Austen-when I was watching Anna Karenina (1948) all I could think of was Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.

Hmmm

Anna Karenina was published as a serial from 1873-77 by Leo Tolstoy-it is divided into eight parts and has over a dozen major characters. In my opinion, what it boils down to is the story lines of two characters-Anna Karenina and Konstantin “Kostya” Dmitrievich Lëvin/Lyovin. The movie doesn’t really showcase the second character, so I’m going to focus on the former, as the movie does.

Countess Anna Arkadyevna Karenina is one of the most beautiful women in Russia. The book and film, starts with her heading to St. Petersburg to visit with her brother, Prince Stepan Arkadyevich Oblonsky, who’s affair with his children’s governess has been discovered. When traveling she visits with Countess Vronskaya and talk about their sons-showing pictures. Countess tells Anna how his son is supposedly engaged, but she doesn’t believe the womanizing man is ready to settle down-she sees it in “his eyes”.

He’s a bad boy-womanizer

When the train stops, Anna meets Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky. She is nice and goes off with her brother-but the Count is struck by her and that’s it. He is set on going after her.

I want her!

Anna helps with her brother’s marital problems, ironing everything out, and encourages her sister-in-law, Princess Ekaterina “Kitty” Alexandrovna Shcherbatskay, fiancé to Count Vronsky. They go to a ball and the Count completely ignores Kitty telling her “I didn’t see you” when she is right next to him.

Way harsh,

He pays attention all night to Anna. Anna enjoys it because her husband is too busy for her, too busy caring for Russia as he is an important politician. But after the ball, she heads home as she knows Vronsky’s attentions are wrong (and too tempting) and she’s sad she hurt Kitty.

Vronsky follows Anna on the train and from then on pursues her nonstop. We see that Anna has had a good life. She married a wealthy and powerful man for security-but he doesn’t give her any attention. All she wants is for his focus, for him to take her to the opera-but he’s made other plans with state officials.

She goes on her own-where her “shadow” as everyone calls it-Count Vrosky, is there. She succumbs to him.

Anna Karenina: If you have any thought for me you will give me back my peace!

Count Vronsky: There can be no peace for us, only misery, and the greatest happiness.

Dude, she asked you to leave her alone, SO LEAVE HER ALONE!

Ugh, this guy!

They begin an affair, which no one cares about her stepping out (as all do it in society) except that Anna doesn’t hide it. In fact, she and Vronsky want to run off and get married, but her husband, Count Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin, won’t divorce her.

This space between them has been in the beginning of the movie and continues.

Anna grows extremely ill and almost dies (in the book it is from a rough pregnancy, in the film they make it more nerves related). Count Alexei forgives her, and wants to stay with her-realizing that she is a real person and he loves her.

But it is too late for Anna, who leaves him and she and Vronsky end up in Italy. They grow uhappy as Anna is separate from her son, never able to see him again, and can not go out in society.

When they return to Russia-Vronsky can go out to parties, the opera, even has a princess wanting to marry him-but Anna is stuck at home. She is the one that made all the sacrifices to be together and is trapped in the cell she created as she is a marked woman, the scarlet letter A is metaphorically burned into her forehead.

She grows more agitated and crazed and upset-trapped in the house and the bad decision she made. In the end she kills herself by jumping in front of a train.

Nooooooooooooooo

Yes, it is very sad.

I’m going to hide under the covers with my ice cream

So how does it make me think of Mansfield’s Park‘s Maria and Mary?

Hmmm

Well in Mansfield Park, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry visit the Bertram home. Mary originally decides to go after the eldest brother, but falls for the second son, Edmund. Her brother isn’t set on anyone, but flirts with Mary and Julia Bertram, even though Maria is engaged.

Devilish grin must stay grinning…

Later, Henry goes after Mary’s cousin Fanny Price, but she turns him down. He runs into the married Maria and the two run off together, but do not marry. For Henry he is disheartened to lose Fanny, but it hasn’t really hurt him. Yeah people will talk, but it will blow over in time. He’ll have lots of women after him to marry.

It’s no big deal

But the women, are not so lucky.

Both Maria and Mary are very damaged from the dalliance. Maria ends up divorced and living with her single aunt, kicked out of society, estranged from the rest of her family, never to be married again or have any children. Her life is pretty much over. Mary loses the man she is in love with and it isn’t certain she will recover from this. Unfortunately, Mary’s reputation is tied to her brother and severely damaged.

So unlike Anna, I really do not like Maria at all. She is mean, rude, cruel, a total jerk-so when she everything goes down, I have to admit, I feel very much like “Just desserts” was served.

Sucks to be you

However, after watching this I started thinking of her different-I still don’t like her, but I viewed her differently.

Hmm…

So Anna married an older, wealthy, powerful man. It may have been for wealth, security, power, a family alliance-we don’t quite know. We do know that it isn’t for love as she says she’s never been in love until Vronsky. Now Count Alexei isn’t a bad man, just too focused on himself and Russia. He reminds me of Torvald Helmer in a Doll’s House, and how he never viewed his wife as a person but an object, his doll. Count Alexe doesn’t think he needs to give Anna any attention, as she is already a part of his collection. He never thinks of her as a real woman with needs, emotions, desires, until she almost does and realizes that he could lose her.

Anna could have lived a good life with him, maybe not an extremely happy life, or romantic one, but a good one. The Count is a bit narcissistic, but it could have worked out. The same is true with Maria. Now we know that Maria choose Mr. Rushworth him for his wealth and power, there was no love on her side, just £12,000 a year (making him the wealthiest character in any Jane Austen novel).

And the same would have been for her. Maria wouldn’t have had a perfect, or romantic, or completely happy life-but she would have had a good one. She had her home, friends, society, and eventually children. Both women would have had good marriages if they continued.

Unfortunately, each has a man come waltzing in who doesn’t care and won’t leave them alone. Now Anna does the right thing and tries to leave. She doesn’t want to go down that path. Maria on the other had, she enjoys it and encourages it (that’s another reason I don’t like her).

But the thing that really bothered me was the men. I mean we don’t see it in Mansfield Park as much because the story is not focused on Maria as Fanny is away from her. But in Anna Karenina we see how awfully she is treated. She’s ruined in society, she can’t go anywhere, she becomes trapped in the house-and the Count he no longer loves her.

WHAT!!!!

Yes, the Count wanted her when she was beautiful, the belle of the ball, the one everyone desired.

But after, when more problems arose than were solved, when his happiness was not achieved by a person, he begins to resent her. He hates being trapped in the house and as he is a man, the scandal just rolls off his back and he can move forward and date a princess! He doesn’t get why she is so upset about how she is being treated, he doesn’t understand her loss of her child, her fear of losing him and being alone, etc. And he’s basically like “girl why you mad, you shouldn’t be upset.”

Ugh!

The same is with Henry Crawford, like Maria we don’t see everything that happens to him, but we know all he has to do is go into the country for a bit, and then he can be back and out in society. He’s not going to be seared with the “red letter”, be estranged from his family (his uncle probably loved it), never get married (unless it is by choice), never have children (unless by choice), etc.

Me with Henry Crawford and Vronsky.

So while watching Anna Karenina didn’t make me like Maria and Mary better, but it did make me feel sorry for them that they receive the brunt of the outfall of the affair while the men get to take off and live their lives.

It also makes so angry that these men pursued these women when they were off limits.

True Henry was only doing it for fun-but still. These men did that knowing that nothing could happen to them, and doing their best seduction to trap them.

You jerks!

Ugh, after watching this I hate Vronksky and Henry even more than before.

I kind of debated adding this to Non-Austen Films for Austen Fans, but I wasn’t sure. It is such a sad movie-and so sad what happens to her-I don’t know if I would recommend it. I might put it on the Mansfield Park page though.

Hmm…

And in conclusion, Professor O’Malley you are wrong. Jane Austen and Russian stories are similar-and Jane Austen doesn’t end happily-ever-after for everyone.

For more Mansfield Park, go to Austen Avengers Assemble!

For more Maria Bertram, go to Waiter, There’s Some Disney in My Jane Austen

For more Mary Crawford, go to The Heartbreak Kid

For more Henry Crawford, go to Dangerous to Know, Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues: MATURE

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Why Everyone Should Read Gone With the Wind

B is for Best-Selling Novel

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Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

When it came to look for a Best-Seller to put on the list I decided to start first with 1916, as that book would be celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Double double yay

But I didn’t see any I was a very big fan of so I went to 1926. Nothing there as well.

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I decided I would then check 1936 and if I couldn’t find a book I was a fan of I would try 1896, then 1886, then 1876, and then go back to 1946 and on and on until I finally found something.

However, I stopped at 1936 with Gone With the Wind.

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Gone With the Wind was published in 1936 and at time sold 176,000 copies. It was a best seller in 1936 and 1937, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1937, and by 1938 sold a million copies. In 1939 the film came out and the book sold two million copies.

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My first introduction to Gone With the Wind was when I first watched the film when a friend and I were going through AFI’s list of the best films. We made it to #15 before we became too busy and haven’t finished doing it since.

Oh well.

Oh well.

Anyways, I watched it and thought the movie was really good. The cinematography was absolutely stunning, it was full of good quotes, and Clark Gable was just amazing as Rhett Butler (funny thing is Margaret Mitchell didn’t want him as she thought he wasn’t handsome enough to be Rhett).

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I didn’t care for Scarlett as I thought she was a…

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And thought she was just horrible, not Vivian Leigh’s performance but her.

Then three years later, as it was on my reading list, I decided to read it, borrowing my mother’s copy. And when I read it I was amazed at how it was a truly fantastic book!

Mal_huh Whoa Wow what

And I believe that everyone should read it at least once.

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So the book is a huge epic! It follows the Irish O’Hara clan from the father’s immigration into the new world and settling in the South, the radical changes from the Antebellum period, to the Civil War, and the Reconstruction era.  At the heart of all this chaos is the story of the beautiful, ruthless Scarlett ‘O’ Hara and the dashing soldier of fortune, Rhett Butler.

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So let’s list off why one should read this book:

A) Shows How the Irish were Viewed in America

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So we start off with Gerald O’Hara, head of the clan. Back in Ireland he was a part of a Catholic Emancipation group, like the Ribbonmen or such and ends up having to flee because of his political activities. He comes to America and isn’t always treated very nicely, as the Irish weren’t. Often they were made fun off, not allowed in certain areas, and thought to be taking over jobs. He starts working in his brother’s store but what he really wants is land, the very land that was denied him back in Ireland as no Catholic Irish could ever own anything.

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He eventually wins a plantation in a poker game and spends a long time building it up and having it be one of the richest ones in the area. He then decides to marry, but while these Southern families enjoy his wealth and propsperity; none could ever think of marrying their daughter to an Irish immigrant who’s family is unknown. The only thing for him to do is try to find a woman somewhere else, as he returns to his brother for help in finding a bride.

Yes, most don’t realize this but the wealthy South wanted to be like the old manors of Europe. Be the master of the land with pure bloodlines of other wealthy families, not bringing any low class in, and very racist against any that weren’t established in their group. This kind of racism against the Irish and Catholics went much farther than the South and was seen all over the country. Many times Irishmen and women had the lowest class jobs, found it hard to get land and keep it, and found themselves competing against African Americans who would work for lower wages (in the North). While Gerald O’Hara does extremely well, a lot of Irish weren’t able to ever reach that, especially in the South at this time.

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B) Scarlet O’Hara

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Scarlett is a Southern women in the Antebellum period and has very little schooling. All that is expected of her is to marry well and have plenty of children. But Scarlet has always felt different and out of touch with the time she lives in.

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She is extremely intelligent and has great business acumen. In fact it is often remarked that if her brain had been born into a boy she would have been able to go far.

Scarlet doesn’t have life easy either. With the Civil War she finds herself becoming a nurse, a midwife, and eventually has to take on the plantation or risk starvation. Because of those experiences it makes her hard, as with the book we see how she is constantly worried if things will turn out alright, if they can make it, or if they will be back to starvation; everyone looking at her to take care of everything.

I don't know what to do

That is an incredible burden to be laid on a teenager (as she is about 17 or 18), let alone one who’s education was “how to look her prettiest”. She becomes tough because if she doesn’t, none of them will survive.

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When the home is attacked, she defends it shooting the deserter and protecting the home and people.

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Now she does steal her sister’s boyfriend, so she has faults, but she does it because she has foresight none of the others do. He has a hardware store, but when Scarlet takes over she also creates a lumber mill, triples the money, and is able to provide for everyone. Even though she accomplishes all this everyone still tells her she isn’t being a lady, running businesses and doing better than her husband. They try to convince her to stop, but she keeps on doing it. Using her “ladies mind” which contains a powerful way with numbers.

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She continues to be this strong, forceful woman throughout the rest of the novel; even though she does make a lot of bad personal decisions. Still, for a woman in the 1800s to have her own business, earn her own money, choose who she will marry (several times), is pretty awesome! She is a powerhouse of a character.

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C) Not as Racist as People Think

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People had slaves and if a book mentions it, that is not racist. In fact in this book the slaves aren’t really shown to be stupid, slow, or other clichés; except Lettie who is mentally disabled (something we understand more now than we did then). There is the house slave who didn’t want to work in the fields, but being a house slave was seen as better than an outdoor slave and slaves on the inside often treated the field slaves as being lower class.

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In fact this book isn’t racist to African Americans, but points out racism and hypocrisy that African Americans faced from those who were trying to free them. It is often remarked that while the North wanted the Southern slaves to be free, that did not mean they actually wanted to work with those freed slaves or have them near. There were plenty of racist people living in the North fighting for African American rights, but if they were near an African American they would still treat them cruelly. Mitchell points this out when the new Republicans brought in by Reconstruction say they would never have an African American nanny their children as they have “diseases” and “uncouth ways”. In fact they would much rather ship over an Irish immigrant than ever let their child be touched by someone black.

What jerks

What jerks

Many say that Mitchell started this “Mamie” stereotype  creating a myth that all Africans were pleased with being slaves; which Mitchell does not do. Like The Help, which by the way everyone loved and praised, she shows that because the nannies lived in the house and raised the children they sometimes became like family. It didn’t happen with everyone, but in this case Mamie was a mother to Scarlet more than her own mother.

Also people are all different and have their own views, even if they live in the same area. Mitchell presents a look at the many ways people regarded slavery; indifferent as Scarlet, necessary as Mr. O’Hara; and how some treat African Americans rudely, cruelly, or like family.

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D) The Person You Love are Not Always True

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Scarlet is in love with Ashley Wilkes, but they could never marry as her blood (Irish) is too inferior for the Wilkes family. He is to marry none other than his cousin, but instead of flat out saying that to Scarlett, Ashley likes how this beautiful woman who everyone wants loves him and leads Scarlett on, trying to make sure her “flames of love kept burning” because it made him feel good. He was such a jerk and a coward! I mean we’ve all had guys like that who say “they would make the commitment”, but their life isn’t quite together yet. They haven’t reached their plans. And then when you try to move on, they always snag you back, bemoaning that if only things were different; trying to get you to wait for them.

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They get their poisonious hook into you and keep you.

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My friend was in the snare of a guy like Ashley for three years. He would go on about how they couldn’t be together, she deserved someone better; but as soon as she started to move on or see other people he would pop in about how much he cared about her. Constantly stringing her along in this cycle.

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Thankfully she finally realized it or she would have been like Scarlett constantly pining after something she thought she needed when the real prize laid before her. It is horrible, and this book really teaches you the errors of being stuck on someones hook.

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E) Stop Looking to the Past

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Like most people, Scarlett gets stuck in the past. All she can do is think of Ashley and wish of Ashley.

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How many of us have had a broken heart and instead of realizing how that person wasn’t right and deciding to move on, we cling to the past dreaming, wishing hoping. How many of us waste our time like Scarlett?

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Scarlett was so consumed with her dreams and thoughts of the past that she was blind to the person who really loved her, that if she had only let her dream of Ashley die and stop mooning about him she would have seen how much better Rhett was for her.

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F) Never Be afraid to Say How You Feel

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Everyone talks about Scarlett’s blindness and how she was unable to see what she has but you know who was a real coward? Rhett! Rhett never told her he loved her until the very end. Maybe if he had not been so afraid to admit his real feelings and told her the truth about how he felt instead of distancing himself for the fear of her breaking his heart or lording over him, then they might have had a chance at true happiness.

Yes it can be hard to be vulnerable, or share your heart with others. Things can go very wrong of the person doesn’t care. But they can go just as bad of you say nothing and let the person you love pass you on by.

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G) Hold On to Tomorrow

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As Little orphan Annie says, “So you got to hang on ’til tomorrow, come what may!” Even after all she’s been through, Scarlett has an optimism that seems to go against everything else about her. She has faith that in tomorrow things can change. Life is hard now but in the flip of a dime it could turn out better. This kind of optimism we should instill in our life as well. Anything could happen tomorrow, don’t give up as things can get better.

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To start the 30 day challenge from the beginning, go to It Was a Pleasure to Burn: Fahrenheit 451

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For more on Gone With the Wind, go to At the End of the Rainbow: 17 More Irish Heroes

For more on Margaret Mitchell, go to I Will Survive

For more Ayn Rand quotes, go to The Power is Yours

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Today’s carol is O Little Town of Bethlehem. Phillip Brooks visited Bethlehem in 1865 and three years later wrote the poem, asking his organist Lewis Redner to write the music.

“As Christmas of 1868 approached, Mr. Brooks told me that he had written a simple little carol for the Christmas Sunday-school service, and he asked me to write the tune to it. The simple music was written in great haste and under great pressure. We were to practice it on the following Sunday. Mr. Brooks came to me on Friday, and said, ‘Redner, have you ground out that music yet to “O Little Town of Bethlehem”? I replied, ‘No,’ but that he should have it by Sunday. On the Saturday night previous my brain was all confused about the tune. I thought more about my Sunday-school lesson than I did about the music. But I was roused from sleep late in the night hearing an angel-strain whispering in my ear, and seizing a piece of music paper I jotted down the treble of the tune as we now have it, and on Sunday morning before going to church I filled in the harmony. Neither Mr. Brooks nor I ever thought the carol or the music to it would live beyond that Christmas of 1868.”

Amazing. Now it is famous and such a part of the festive year. My favorite version is the Nat King Cole one.

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For more Christmas carols, go to We Wish You A Merry Christmas