Post 4: summary

At the end of a long project that has involved writing, research, and a lot of reading, I am very happy with my results. I started with three literary women who have always fascinated me: Dido, Anna Karenina, and Scarlett O’Hara. These women are all strong, passionate, and incredibly unlucky. When I started looking for connections among their stories, I quickly realized that they have even more in common than I realized. Even the timelines of their romantic misadventures are remarkably similar. Through marriage, loss, and motherhood, these women rule a country, bewitch and then estrange a society, and survive a war. Though their societies and writers are distant from each other, the theme of being destroyed by love from Dido’s tale that has fascinated readers for millennia reiterates itself in both Anna Karenina and Gone With the Wind. These brilliant women have more in common with each other than they do with their respective societies. But perhaps the more general theme is that of three loves so powerful in their tragedy that their pages have been worn thin with innumerable readings hardly lessened by the years. Even the strongest characters could not combat the inevitable pull towards destructive love affairs. And while all three stories are heartbreaking, their endings seem somehow fitting. No ordinary ending, no romantic ride off into the sunset, would do justice to any of these characters. For them, instead, is the tragic end of three heroes who go down fighting for love at the risk of losing livelihood.


  1. caseyterrel says:


    I just read your final summary about your Monroe project and was intrigued. Exploring the nature of love across three distinct timelines, documenting the lives of three heroines, and comparing their different experiences is a massive undertaking and can prove challenging. Of the three works, I have only read Anna Karenina which really was quite a long read. So first off, definitely an impressive task you had set before yourself.

    I have some questions about your work.

    First, what made you decide these three books to study? Did you consider any books where the heroines do get to ride off into the figurative sunset? Perhaps Jane Eyre?

    Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina was really a remarkable women. Certainly, her life was put together before Vronsky and there was a certain mysticism about her character that felt otherworldly. In the beginning of the work, she even saves her brother’s marriage after his adultery. Do the other characters Dido and Scarlett O’Hara experience such a dramatic change after they meet their lover as well? (in this case Vronsky for Anna Karenina).

    Lastly, you determined that the common theme in these works is the destructive power of love. Certain powers cannot be overcome, even by the strongest of characters, and some limits, whether they be societal or otherwise serve to limit their efforts in the pursuit of love. Yet, these characters pursue love and falter. What would you say makes their love destructive? Certainly, some obstacles in the way of love can be overcome. What makes these tragedies so insurmountable and unites the three works?

    I wish I had read the other two books to be more knowledgeable. Perhaps I can add them to my reading list!

  2. To me, the deaths of Anna Karenina and her lover seemed less of a fight for love and more of the inevitable doom that the two had brought upon themselves by betraying the moors of Russian society and, finally, of God. In contrast, you had the holiness of Levin, who struggled because he felt excluded from the sort of covenant both of Russian society and of God. While Anna and Vronsky moved away from this and died because of it, Levin fought toward it and prospered.

  3. Hi Rachel,
    I think your project is really neat. I recently read Anna Karenina, and have also read Gone With the Wind. I think if I were to meet Anna or Scarlett (especially Scarlett) in person, I wouldn’t necessarily like them. However, their respective books delve into so much detail on the mental processes and motivations of these two characters, so the reader sympathizes with these women. Today, I feel like a lot of people romanticize the concept of love; it is interesting that in these two books (and the other one you read, which I haven’t), love is the means by which these women get estranged (to use your word) from society. It seems like a double standard, and that makes the concepts all the more interesting and complicated. You did a nice job analyzing the complexities of these novels and characters, and the forces that unite them!

  4. Hi Rachel,
    I loved reading through the progress you made on your project. I find it both interesting and frustrating that many of the classic books with female heroines had love stories of heartbreak, but not stories of self-discovery. They seem to be supporting characters in their own stories, with their romances taking the headlines. Do you think literary counterparts for women in critically acclaimed literature will ever have their stories told in a non-romantic context?