Speaking of Anna Karenina, which someone was in the post below, I heard a fantastic talk on Anna’s suicide last week and wrote it up very briefly here.
It has been at least fifteen years since I read Tolstoy’s novel, and it’s not a book I ever close-read. So Gary Saul Morson’s observation that Anna, in her last scene, is consciously copying the death of the watchman in her first scene struck me like a jolt of electricity. I always took the rail accident of the first scene as just so much ill boding, which I believe is the standard lazy reading, but Morson exploded it by very simply pointing out that Anna remembers the accident and decides to follow suit: “And all at once she thought of the man crushed by the train the day she had first met Vronsky, and she knew what she had to do.” (I’m quoting from this on-line edition.) That’s not foreshadowing, it’s the opposite. Rather than being ready-built as a meaningful sign, the watchman’s death is only retrospectively endowed with significance by Anna and the decision she makes based on her sudden memory of it.
If ever you have the opportunity to hear Morson speak, you should do so.