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Monday, June 27, 2011

Alexei Caught

Alexei finally decides to consult a Petersburg attorney about a possible divorce from Anna.  In the scene between Karenin and the lawyer, Tolstoy uses a moth to show the position in which Alexei finds himself.  Four times in this one scene a moth interrupts the discussion between the two about the process of obtaining a divorce.  It is enlightening to look at what is happening just before each interruption:

*The lawyer catches the first moth (never actually kills any of them) just before Alexei begins to speak.  The lawyer already has Alexei within his grasp before the former knows what Alexei has to say, though the appearance of the second moth suggests that he may already know what Alexei has to say.

*"I know you and the good"—again he caught a moth—"work you are doing, like every Russian," said the lawyer, bowing (Part 4, Ch. 5).  After Alexei requests that his privacy be respected, the lawyer acknowledges that he knows who Alexei is through his work.  In the middle of his statement, the lawyer catches another moth, suggesting that he has no plans to respect Alexei's privacy.

*Alexei reveals that he is contemplating a divorce, which causes the lawyer to get visibly giddy.  The lawyer sees a third moth "but did not catch it from regard for Alexei Alexandrovitch's position." Thee lawyer attempts to hide his giddiness.  He already has Alexei within his grasp and avoids flaunting over such.

*The final moth appears after Alexei agrees to allow the lawyer choose the proper course of action.  The lawyer catches it "inconspicuously," trying to avoid detection.  In the same way he has slyly caught Alexei within his grasp.  The lawyer, who remains unnamed, stops catching moths after Alexei leaves his office, "finally deciding that next winter he must have the furniture covered with velvet, like Sigonin's."  He makes a future plan that he may or may not carry out, rather than dealing with the problem now.  It is hard to imagine that he will make a change considering the enjoyment he displayed in catching the moths.

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