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Commentary: Importance of the Mihailov episode for the novel as a whole.

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Commentary: Importance of the Mihailov episode for the novel as a whole. Tim Hoffmann English IB HL 29/09/03 During pages 492-505, special light is thrown on the character of Mihailov and the characters surrounding him. Compared to other sections, this episode is not particularly important to the plot. It does not involve any fundamental aspects that drastically change the rest of the book, but reveals characteristics and more importantly clearly shows Anna and Vronsky's relationship. This section comes directly after Levin and Kitty's wedding and the extreme happiness that ensued. This contrasts with this section as, although they show happiness, a blanket of boredom seems to lure over the entire section, for Vronsky in particular. Anna Karenin and Vronsky, who are lodging in Italy, visit Mihailov and this section shows many relevant connections to the rest of novel. In general, we find that Vronsky, who try's his hand at painting, when faced with the greater aptitude of Mihailov, stops his experimenting and allows Mihailov, a professional, to create a portrait of Anna. This shows Vronsky's weakness at this stage, and this same weakness is revealed earlier on in the novel. Although we are aware that Vronsky's love for Anna seems quite real, he does not attempt to tear her away from Karenin, but rather continues with many visits to Anna in secret. ...read more.


He does this consciously, as he is aware that he needs his privacy and solitude to accomplish his goals. Anna, in a different way, accomplishes the same thing. By pursuing her affair with Vronsky, and by leaving Karenin, she locks herself up in her own cocoon of society, where she is restricted from visiting others. Of Mihailov's works, three are shown special attention to. Firstly, the painting of Christ before Pilate, one of controversy which Vronsky says he must have, is "critically analyzed" and praised by the three "art aficionados." Mihailov, although very critical of the three wealthy observers, takes their opinions incredibly seriously. As an artist, he seeks for his interpretations and his views to be seen through his art. Their comments both give him extreme pride, but also tear him down, as he is at times very insecure with his work. The second painting, that which draws the most attention and praise, that of two young boys fishing, appears to contain symbolism. "Two boys were angling in the shade of a willow-tree. The elder had just cast the line and, all absorbed, was cautiously drawing the float from behind a bush; the younger boy lay in the grass, leaning on his elbows, with his tangled flaxen head in his hands, staring at the water with dreamy blue eyes. ...read more.


Anna's company is not enough for him, yet Anna is "unpardonably happy,"4 as even though she has left her whole life behind, she has no complaints and fall even more deeply in love with Vronsky. Vronsky notices in Mihailov's portrait of Anna a peculiar beauty. " 'One needs to know her and love her, as I have loved her, to discover the very sweetest expression of her soul,' thought Vronsky, though it was only through this portrait that he himself learned this sweetest expression of her soul."5 The fact that Vronsky, until he sees the painting, has not been aware of Anna's true soul implies that he doesn't know enough about her, (and although his love for her seems authentic) Vronsky feels he loves her more than he truly does. That a painter, someone who barely knows Anna (on a platonic level), can see something her lover cannot shows that Mihailov sees something in Anna undetectable by her closest contacts. Therefore, this episode involving Mihailov, although not particularly important to the plot, gives the reader a deeper insight into the lives and emotions of Anna and Vronsky and the situation in which they have placed themselves. It is this episode that allows Vronsky to realize his boredom, and arguably what drives Anna to suicide (by returning to Russia.) 1 Page 495, Anna Karenin 2 Page 502, Anna Karenin 3 Page 505, Anna Karenin 4 Page 490, Anna Karenin 5 Page 503, Anna Karenin ...read more.

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