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Monday, June 6, 2011

Two Suitors

Love's Interruptions by Frederick Morgan

Kitty has two suitors from which to choose and her choice is clear:  She picks Count Vronsky over Levin.  So why does she choose Vronsky?  Kitty is heavily influence by her mother's preference for Vronsky.  He is an aristocratic military man from St. Petersburg with an engaging personality.  As such he would be an excellent match.  Levin, on the other hand, is a shy but opinionated farmer from rural Russia.  While Vronsky is a newly arrived on the scene, Levin has known the Shcherbatsky family for years, though he abruptly left Moscow two months previous after pursuing Kitty persistently for several months.  His reason for leaving was his realization that Kitty's family, particularly her mother, would not like the match, though her father, The Prince, favors Levin.  Consequently, Kitty's attentions have been focused on Vronsky for the past two months. 

However, their conversation about spiritualism reveals a lot about their character and why Kitty makes the choice she does.

The conversation fell upon table-turning and spirits, and Countess Nordston, who believed in spiritualism, began to describe the marvels she had seen.

"Ah, countess, you really must take me, for pity's sake do take me to see them! I have never seen anything extraordinary, though I am always on the lookout for it everywhere," said Vronsky, smiling.

"Very well, next Saturday," answered Countess Nordston. "But you, Konstantin Dmitrievitch, do you believe in it?" she asked Levin.

"Why do you ask me? You know what I shall say."

"But I want to hear your opinion."

"My opinion," answered Levin, "is only that this table-turning simply proves that educated society—so called—is no higher than the peasants. They believe in the evil eye, and in witchcraft and omens, while we…"

"Oh, then you don't believe in it?"

"I can't believe in it, countess."

"But if I've seen it myself?"
"The peasant women too tell us they have seen goblins."
"Then you think I tell a lie?"

And she laughed a mirthless laugh.

"Oh, no, Masha, Konstantin Dmitrievitch said he could not believe in it," said Kitty, blushing for Levin, and Levin saw this, and, still more exasperated, would have answered, but Vronsky with his bright frank smile rushed to the support of the conversation, which was threatening to become disagreeable.

"You do not admit the conceivability at all?" he queried. "But why not? We admit the existence of electricity, of which we know nothing. Why should there not be some new force, still unknown to us, which…"

"When electricity was discovered," Levin interrupted hurriedly, "it was only the phenomenon that was discovered, and it was unknown from what it proceeded and what were its effects, and ages passed before its applications were conceived. But the spiritualists have begun with tables writing for them, and spirits appearing to them, and have only later started saying that it is an unknown force" (Part 1, Ch. 14).

Vronsky is of a theoretical mindset.  He is excited by the unknown and willing to try new things.  He does not seem to have any firm beliefs and is easily influenced.  His unconstrained personality comes across as friendly while Levin seems hostile to untraditional methods.  As a prudent man, Levin is firmly set in his beliefs and would need concrete proof to change these beliefs.  He wants nothing to do with the unexplainable.  In essence, Levin is more stable though he exudes boredom.  To the contrary, Levin is unwavering and place emphasis on established methods.  To a city girl of 18 like Kitty, such a personality would be less attractive than one that seeks to establish new norms.  Kitty likes Levin but Vronsky presents a more exciting prospect.  Unfortunately for Kitty, Vronsky has no plans of marriage.

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