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This Idiotic Smile

March 14, 2009

Stepan Arkadyevitch’s smile has been the silent undoing of many a man (from chapter one of Anna Karenina):

There happened to him at that instant what does happen to people when they are unexpectedly caught in something very disgraceful. He did not succeed in adapting his face to the position in which he was placed towards his wife by the discovery of his fault. Instead of being hurt, denying, defending himself, begging forgiveness, instead of remaining indifferent even– anything would have been better than what he did do– his face utterly involuntarily (reflex spinal action, reflected Stepan Arkadyevitch, who was fond of physiology)– utterly involuntarily assumed its habitual, good-humored, and therefore idiotic smile.

This idiotic smile he could not forgive himself. Catching sight of that smile, Dolly shuddered as though at physical pain, broke out with characteristic heat into a flood of cruel words, and rushed out of the room. Since then she had refused to see her husband.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Phil Harvey permalink
    March 21, 2009 9:39 pm

    Even more painful, though less funny: his blunder in dismissing the affair as a mere “infatuation.”

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