Comparing Anna and Clara

To many women, it is essential that they be looked upon with the same respect as a man; to women, equality is a very important attribute to have when living in a male dominated society. In the book Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, written between 1873 and 1877, Anna, the main character, feels that she is not able to have as much freedom in Russia as her husband and, as a result, tries to overcome her burden with her actions. Anna finds happiness with a man and ends up losing it as a result of society’s limits on women.Clara del Valle in The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende is in the same predicament. Written in 1981, The House of the Spirits describes the life of a young woman living in a South American country who loses her mother, father and sister through tragedy. She then tries to find happiness with her own family but is limited by her husband’s actions and demands. In Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Allende’s The House of the Spirits, Anna and Clara attempt to overcome their limitations and gain respect from the men in their own societies through their intellect and determination, their expressions of strength, and their attempts at happiness through marriage.Tolstoy’s Anna is a woman who is blessed with intelligence and determination. She lives in an upper class society where men are favored over women. Anna’s future lover Vronsky first describes her when he goes to the train station in St. Petersburg as someone who “[belongs] to high society” and is “very beautiful, not because of the elegance and modest grace that could be seen in her whole figure, but because there was something especially gentle and tender in the expression of her sweet-looking face” (Tolstoy 61). Anna is a very strong-willed woman with her own set of beliefs, and she will not let her husband’s or society’s beliefs get in the way of her achieving equality with men. During her relationship with Vronsky she wants to go to a play, but he begs her not to go.Knowing that Anna will only be hurt by society’s gossip concerning her unfaithfulness to her husband and son, Vronsky tells her, “My feeling cannot change, you know that, but I ask you not to go, I implore you” (Tolstoy 543). Instead, Anna doesn’t listen to her husband who seems to be controlling but only has her happiness in mind. In The House of the Spirits Clara the Clairvoyant, who can interpret dreams of other people as well as herself, “an inborn talent, requiring [no] cabalistic study,” (Allende 75) uses her power to help overcome the fact that she is a woman in a male-dominated society.Clara also uses her intelligence to persuade other women that they can achieve more success than they believe possible. She works with a group of women who are currently in bad relationships with men who beat them making the women believe they deserve it. Clara asks the women, “Since when has a man not beaten his wife? If he doesn’t beat her, it’s either because he doesn’t love her or because he isn’t a real man. Since when is a man’s paycheck or the fruit of the earth or what chickens lay shared between them, when everybody knows he is the one in charge? Since when has a woman ever done the same things as a man?” (Allende 106). Both Anna and Clara are empowered by their intellect, which helps them overcome their situations.Anna Karenina is a very outgoing woman and is never afraid to express her feelings to anyone. Throughout the story she has temporary happiness through marriage, but the marriage does not end well. At the end of the story, Anna thinks about the unfairness of life and how she cannot have as much freedom as a man would have before she commits suicide. She is “unable to think up a situation in which life would not be suffering”, and she believes “that we’re all created in order to suffer” (Tolstoy 766) Anna shows her boldness when “she [decides] then and there that the next day, [on her son] Seryozha’s birthday… she would go directly to her husband’s house [to] bribe the servants [and] deceive them” in order to see her son (Tolstoy 532). Clara is the complete opposite of Anna because she is very silent.The first time she is silent is when she sees her sister’s autopsy “…feeling within her the silence of the entire world. Silence filled her utterly. She did not speak again until nine years later” (Allende 39). She also stops speaking to her husband Esteban. Clara was so opposed to him that, “she stopped using her married name and removed the fine gold wedding ring that he had placed on her finger twenty years before” after they get into a fight (Allende 201). Not only did Clara stop talking, she stopped associating herself with her husband. Clara’s silence is her way of gaining power over Esteban causing him to wonder what she was thinking and what her opinions were during her time of silence. Even though Anna and Clara are different, both are examples of strength. They almost achieve their goals of trying to be just as equal as men, and their husbands both begin to understand that.In both novels, Anna and Clara find happiness, but everything goes terribly wrong in the end. In Anna Karenina, Anna and Vronsky fall in love at first sight when he ” [notices] the restrained animation that played over her face and fluttered between her shining eyes and the barely noticeable smile that curved her red lips. It was as if a surplus of something so overflowed her being that it expressed itself beyond her will, now in the brightness of her glance, now in her smile. She deliberately extinguished the light in her eyes, but it shone against her will in a barely noticeable smile.” (Tolstoy 61)After they fall in love, they start seeing each other more and more until finally they live together and Anna has a baby. The reader never knows if the baby is Vronsky’s, but it can be inferred that the baby is his even though Anna has only been with Vronsky for about a month leaving the possibility that her husband is the father. During Anna’s pregnancy, Vronsky attempts to kill himself because he hears that she possibly could die from childbirth. ” ‘What is this? Or am I losing my mind?’ He said to himself. ‘Maybe so. Why else do people lose their minds, why else do they shoot themselves?’ ” (Tolstoy 417). Vronsky’s attempted suicide is the beginning of Anna’s unhappiness.Later in the story, Anna is unhappy at the fact that Vronsky gets to go out while she has to stay at home. After a fight with Vronsky “she [thinks] about that look, which expressed his right to freedom, and arrived, as always, at one thing – the awareness of her humiliation. He has the right to go off wherever and whenever he wants. Not only to go off but to abandon me. He has all the rights and I have none.” (Tolstoy 666). Clara also has temporary happiness in The House of the Spirits, but it slowly turns into unhappiness by the end of the story. Clara first has a taste of happiness when she becomes engaged to Esteban. ” ‘Do you want to marry me?’ Clara asked, and he noticed an ironic gleam in her hazel eyes- Esteban smiled happily… ‘Yes Clara that’s why I came.'” (Allende 89) After that everything begins to go wrong for Clara.Clara and Esteban start to fight about everything, even the names of their children. Esteban even goes as far as to “[smash] a porcelain jar that, [he believed], was the last vestige of the splendid days of [his] great-grandfather, but she was unmoved.” (Allende 115) After the last fight between Clara and Esteban she never speaks to him again. At the end of the fight, “[Esteban] stared at her, paralyzed with surprise. For a second his fury seemed to deflate, and he felt as if she were making fun of him but a wave of blood immediately rushed to his brain. He lost control and struck her in the face, knocking her against the wall. Clara fell to the floor without a sound.” (Allende 200)Clara also gets to the point where she doesn’t allow Esteban in her bedroom, by having “a bolt installed on her bedroom door and… never letting Esteban in her bed again.” (Allende 179) Clara ends up dying a natural death, but she dies an unhappy woman. Both Anna and Clara depend on others for happiness rather than themselves, and both have fights within their marriages. Anna and Clara also die in their respective stories: Anna kills herself while Clara dies a natural death, but both die in a miserable state of mind.Anna and Clara lived in times that were dominated by men. They tried to overcome their situations but were forced to live mediocre lives. Their portrayal of strength and perseverance is a good example of how they stayed strong in many tough situations. Anna was able to use her intelligence, emotions and open heart to show her strength. Clara used her powers, silence, and abilities to stand firm on her beliefs and to depict her strength. Together both women show the world that individuals can produce very similar results when placed in the same predicament even if separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles.

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