The Lesson of Anna Karenina: Vengeance is Mine; I will Repay

One of my favorite novels, and the inspiration in both theme and plot for my second novel The Seducer, is Tolstoy’s classic Anna Karenina. The nineteenth-century novel explores not only the pitfalls of falling prey to a seducer, but also shows what happens when one sees vengeance as the answer to unhappiness and injustice. The epigraph of Anna Karenina reads: Vengeance is Mine; I will Repay (from Romans 12:19).

Ultimately, the heroine, Anna sacrifices her family, her son, her reputation to pursue the fantasy of happiness with her lover, Vronsky. She ends up unhappy, rejected by her family and social circle and alone with a man who quickly loses interest in her. Unlike the lead character, Michael, in my novel The Seducer, however, Vronsky is not a psychopathic predator. He’s more of a dandy; today we’d say a player. He doesn’t cause deliberate damage and has no malice towards Anna, as a psychopath would. However, like his mistress Anna, Vronsky can’t think a step ahead of his momentary passions and pleasures. In committing suicide, Anna believes she can make Vronsky pay for the unhappiness he has caused her. Not being psychopathic, Vronsky does suffer, but not as much as Anna’s family: especially the young son she has abandoned. Vengeance is not the answer for Anna Karenina, and it’s even less so the answer for victims of psychopaths.

As we’ve seen, psychopaths cause deliberate harm. They’re malicious social predators who target their victims in order to use, humiliate and destroy them. While Vronsky greets Anna’s death with sadness and even anger, a psychopathic seducer would experience glee and triumph at such news. He’d feel like he has won the match in completely obliterating his victim. Just as  suicide is not an answer, no act of vengeance is either. Psychopaths thrive in skirmishes, battles and all-out wars with their former victims. For instance, they enjoy drawn-out custody battles  and use their children as weapons against their ex-spouses or as leverage to get financial support. We have heard several heart-wrenching testimonials about such situations on this blog. Some victims lose, unjustly, all custody and visitation rights to see the children they love.

In these cases, it’s difficult for victims not to feel resentful and filled with thoughts of vengeance. It’s difficult to resist the impulse to seek justice and get involved in lengthy court battles with a disordered ex. Similarly, victims who have been conned out of a significant amount of money also rightfully try to retrieve their losses from the psychopath. Sometimes the efforts are successful; at other times the psychopath has money, luck or the justice system tipped in his or her favor.

One of the most painful lessons we learn in life as we mature is that life is not always fair. Victims can and should try to pursue justice and retribution against the illegal or wrong actions of the psychopath. However, when that process has run its course and failed, sometimes victims have to learn to cut their losses and abandon the fight before all of their financial resources and emotional energy are depleted in futile battles against the psychopathic ex. Don’t bang your head against a wall. Whenever possible, move forward and open the next door in life.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

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