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Where Scarlett O’Hara And Anna Karenina Meet

“No, I can’t think about it now; later when I’m more calm.”

So says Scarlett O’Hara, most notably at the end of the book; only this line isn’t from Gone With The Wind, this is Anna Karenina as per Pevear and Volokhonsky’s translation.

The rather striking line which, though undoubtedly older, is so like Mitchell’s, comes from the second section of Tolstoy’s epic, roughly one fifth of the way through; it finishes off the chapter in which Anna and Vronsky sleep together for the first time.

Both heroines, if indeed we can call them that, especially in Scarlett’s case, end their stories in downfall. Scarlett sees her life fall to pieces when her up-until-then-unrealised love of her life leaves her, presumably kicking her out of their garishly decorated home at a later date. Anna commits suicide.

Both heroines live their lives in ways their respective societies do not appreciate. Anna’s is more straight-forward; society condones her affair but not the way she displays it fairly openly and leaves the family home. It can be discussed but not seen. Scarlett has done a lot more to offend. She steals her sister’s husband, tries to take her friend’s husband, is too attractive and social, and she’s independent. She likes the glamour, doesn’t share the values of her community, and flaunts her wealth in ways that are not approved. Both characters end up losing their men – Scarlett her Rhett and Anna her Vronsky.

The characters are quite different. Scarlett’s often referred to as an anti-heroine. Hard to love, the reader gets to see both her actions and the resulting pain of the victims. Scarlett’s out for herself. Anna’s a lot more thoughtful. Still selfish enough to go ahead with her affair and put her family in bad standing, she nevertheless cares somewhat for her children and cares about her husband. Hers is a tale of a person falling in love outside a marriage of convenience and is thus for both the other characters and the reader, more understandable. And, unlike Scarlett, there is a lot more to like about her.

What Anna and Scarlett have in common is their independence. Whilst neither had anything close to the independence more women experience today, a lot of their freedom is due to their mindset. It’s easier to see in Scarlett who goes off on her own, has her own business and employees, and Rhett supports her. (Scarlett’s other husbands also let her do her own thing but that was down to her manipulation of them rather than the relative equality of Scarlett and Rhett’s relationship.) Scarlett doesn’t care what people think and of course she has her money to back her up.

Anna shares Scarlett’s mindset to a degree and has the support of her husband, Karenin, to an extent. Anna, loved, adored, moves freely away from her husband when other women might be called to obey – Karenin is a forgiving character whenever society is not involved. Anna has the power in a marriage wherein she’s the stronger of mind though she does hold the advantage of having a husband who states he does not like the idea of jealousy.

Anna and Scarlett are independent by nature but also by society, as it were. Society looks up to them – Anna adored, Scarlett tolerated by women, loved by men. Each could only go so far but neither are at the whim of others. Even when Anna is telling Vronsky they can’t continue it comes from a place of morals and worry over reputation of her family rather than herself.

The whole concept of leaving the thinking until later – something that Anna eventually does, to a point, but something the jury is still out on in regards to Scarlett – is a coping method. For Anna it’s more straight-forward: at the time she was stressed, she’d just consummated her affair, she needs to calm down and think straight. For Scarlett it’s coping with reality and with the difference between what she does and what’s expected – it’s better to be happy, perhaps to live in ignorance, than face up to what she’s done. It shows a certain lack of care for the husband she’s just realised she loves, but it suits the way she is. If she let reality in it would force her to change and by putting the thinking off she delays the inevitable. Perhaps she delays thinking about Rhett’s departure enough that she never deals with it at all and just stays at Tara whilst he dismantles their home. We’ll never know, but out of sight is out of mind.

Leaving things until later gives Anna and Scarlett a permission, if only self-sanctioned, to keep on doing what they’re doing. If they thought about it at once their stories would likely be very different. One thing’s for certain, though – Karenin will always give a damn.



February 12, 2016, 2:24 pm

Interesting parallel; I’d never thought about how much these two characters have in common.

Karen – bookertalk

February 13, 2016, 5:46 pm

loved the creativity of the parallels you found. I would never have thought of this


February 26, 2016, 3:37 pm

Jeanne: It kind of snowballed – I’m still not sure I’m not over-thinking it!

Karen: It doesn’t jump out at you generally, I have to say. I think if it’d been another translation it would’ve been vastly different in terms of noticing.



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