My Impressions From "Anna Karenina" By Leo Tolstoy

Perspectives, knowledge, escapism - literature is an endless outlet for imagination and possibilities, indiscriminately offered to anyone recognising the potential of words, which is why it is so important to me. The translated text of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy immersed me in a charming; aristocratic Russian society, hiding a broken system. Impropriety is the downfall of Anna and Vronsky’s attraction, yet I found myself forgiving Anna’s unprincipled deluded romanticism, by falling in love with her love.

However, reading Helen Edmundson's play adaptation, the anagnorisis working in tandem with peripeteia of the foils of Levin and Anna, concisely angle the play to highlight the implied interactions between the two. The tragedy let me indulge in the different perspectives of relationships, transcending societal and cultural differences. Due to the universal nature of English, I broadened my horizons with ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini. A story with two middle-eastern women as protagonists, told through a bildungsroman form, demonstrated the effects culture and physical conflict, such as the oppressive grip of the Taliban on women’s rights.

By writing sensitively, yet bluntly, Hosseini compels us into a brutal society where we see the unfiltered horror Afghan women face, like when under communist rule, Laila’s father urges her to seek an education. I was able to empathise as a female immigrant from Pakistan, in pursuit of better education, as Hosseini strengthened my knowledge of misogyny in third world countries and raised issues of gender differences. He writes to evoke sympathy not pity, and considering the desensitised nature of modern western media and societies, showing literatures global impact.

Studying Translations in school and watching it at the National Theatre, I was intrigued by the character of Jimmy Jack and his obsession with The Odyssey by Homer. Odysseus is presented as a brave and very masculine character, but arguably his greatest strength is through his rational intuition in difficult situations, such as evading Polyphemus. Mythology in this epic poem removed any preconceived notions of childish fairytales as each character represents humanity: Odysseus’ intellect, Penelope’s loyalty, and Telemachus’ self doubt. Due to Jimmy Jack, I was able to read an introspective tale of Greek mythology which allowed escapism, yet Telemachus’ expectation of exceeding his father’s reputation highlights the reality of predetermined gender differences.

Covering the gothic in lessons, I was inspired to independently explore idiosyncrasies of the genre by reading Beowulf by Michael Alexander. The medieval poem presents similar ideas of heroism, humanity and escapism as The Odyssey; however, gothic undertones amplify the sense of threat. Beowulf disregards lineage and prioritises confidence in oneself as opposed societal expectations. The good of Beowulf is the antithesis of the supernatural antagonists, evoking no sympathy and showing the change within Gothic literature from distant horror to psychological terror. Modern gothic antagonists are metaphors for the darkness within individuals and society, and discerning the shift within the genre made me want to read more.

When reading Jane Eyre, I wanted to unpick the intricate story and my EPQ is a way for me to continue advancing academically, by questioning the societally challenging roles of Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason in Bronte’s novel, in 19th century and modern day. Wanting to further my critical and analytical synthesis of the novel, while regarding contextual cues, I decided to take on a focused research project to determine the role of gender within the 1800s and the assess extent of its change. English at university would further my education by providing new perspectives, heightened knowledge, and allowing escape into literature. This impact on humanity thus expands my mind with the evolution of literature, benefitting me within academia and wider society.

18 May 2020
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