Soul and Body in the Adulteress

1-anna-karenina-ludmila-kalmaeva“For this violation of natural law, she must die”, that’s the statement of Edwina Cruise in her article Women, sexuality, and the family in Tolstoy. Is Anna Karenina a fact of laws? I don’t think so. It could be dangerous to pack such a great topic as is Anna Karenina in itself in these kind of reductive judgements. The whole article gave me an impression of judgement which fails in its attempt to approach Tolstoy from a feminist perspective. I’d say such a perspective is too poor to cover a writer who is always trying to go beyond materialism. It’s just at the end of the article where there’s a reference to Anna’s spiritual struggle, which I guess is the main point of the novel. Who cares about society or ideologies reading hundreds of pages about illusion, hope, remorse and desperation? The story of Anna Karenina is emblematic for itself, it needs nothing else than Anna herself, it’s a defence of individuality and conscience. The evolution of Anna from the very beginning to the end shows in accurate detail every step which leads her to kill herself. It’s a human work of art.

Anna is so well constructed as a character that in fact the novel it’s not just a matter of soul, it’s also concerned with the body and the affects. Anna is a woman clearly with soul and conscience but also with an unsatisfied sensuality and frustrated emotions. She doesn’t fulfil all her personal spheres: her husband isn’t aware of her sexual desire, she’s a mother of just one child which limits her emotional fulfilment. Moreover, boredom is an easy consequence of such a panorama if a woman is supposed to spent all her energies within the domestic realm.

These characteristics are also found in other literary adulteress such as Madame Bovary or the female character in The Kreutzer Sonata. But Anna Karenina especially represents a woman as a whole human being with spiritual, emotional and physical realities being interconnected with each other. Anna mustn’t die because she has been a bad wife and mother, she dies because of her personal dilemma, her individuality finds no place as a whole. Her death isn’t a punishment, is a consequence of the negation of herself as a whole woman.


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