Leo Tolstoy hints at the imminent failure of Vronsky and Anna’s affair early on in Anna Karenina, long before their relationship begins to deteriorate. If examined closely, their fate becomes obvious during the steeplechase in Book Two. Vronsky races in the competition on his impressive new racehorse, Frou-Frou, who symbolizes Anna in this elaborate metaphor. Frou-Frou parallels Anna in virtually every aspect of this event and, ultimately, both of these stunning creatures are ruined by Vronsky’s reckless behavior. The tragedy at the race directly corresponds with the train-wreck affair between Anna and Vronsky, right to the bitter end.
Frou-Frou, a truly beautiful specimen, is a handsome representation of Vronsky’s attractive lover. Vronsky’s first encounter with his horse is reminiscent of his early experiences with Anna. When Vronsky arrives at the stable to assess his newly-purchased mare for the first time, the trainer cautions him not to approach Frou-Frou in fear that it might upset her. In the same way that he ignores his better judgment and decides to pursue a married woman, Vronsky disregards the trainer’s admonition and confidently enters the stall. As he enters, Vronsky marvels that, “In her whole figure and especially in her head there [is] a distinctly energetic and at the same time tender expression” (182). As Vronsky approaches her, Frou-Frou grows increasingly uneasy and disquieted. However, encouraged by what he observed in her expression, he does not retreat, and she calms down once he finally reaches her. This scene correlates with the moment at the train station when Vronsky decides that he will pursue Anna. Vronsky’s bold attempt to woo Anna leaves her feeling unsettled and she vainly attempts to deter him, but he notices a look in her eyes that tells him she does not mean what she says and as such, is encouraged by the incident. Ultimately, Anna submits to his persistent pursuit.
The race itself, too, is an allegory for Vronsky and...
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