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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Eye Opening Experience

Woman in Yellow (1863)  by Dante Gabriel Rosetti
'At Petersburg, as soon as the train stopped and she got out, the first person that attracted her attention was her husband. "Oh, mercy! why do his ears look like that?" she thought, looking at his frigid and imposing figure, and especially the ears that struck her at the moment as propping up the brim of his round hat' (Part 1, Ch. 30).

The above passage is telling in describing the relationship of Anna and her husband Alexei.  They have been married for nine years and have an eight year old son.  Despite that, this is the first time Anna has noticed Alexei's ears.  Her exclamation conveys the lack of intimacy between the couple.  She is unfamiliar with his physique and shocked by his protruding ears.  Although the scene at the ball with Vronsky seems to be a spontaneous act, the passage above proves that the break with her husband has been long in developing.  Though she has much disgust for her husband, Anna's only true concern is for her son.

She was especially struck by the feeling of dissatisfaction with herself that she experienced on meeting him. That feeling was an intimate, familiar feeling, like a consciousness of hypocrisy, which she experienced in her relations with her husband. But hitherto she had not taken note of the feeling, now she was clearly and painfully aware of it.

"Yes, as you see, your tender spouse, as devoted as the first year after marriage, burned with impatience to see you," he said in his deliberate, high-pitched voice, and in that tone which he almost always took with her, a tone of jeering at anyone who should say in earnest what he said.

"Is Seryozha quite well?" she asked.

"And is this all the reward," said he, "for my ardor? He's quite well..."

The encounter with Vronsky helped Anna have an epiphanic moment that allowed her to see her hypocritical relationship with her husband.  Alexei seems comfortable in playing his role but Anna can no longer pretend.  She  only cares for the well-being of her son and does not hide her feelings.

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