While by today’s standards some might see it as barbaric, at the time for a father to allow his daughter to choose to marry or not a suitor is liberal. And her choosing not to is quite the snub, but a win from out point of view since Vasili is such an opportunist. And she retreats to God, forgiving Bourienne’s passion, and only looking to make others happy. She is Tolstoy’s true yet realistic Christian.
I mean it’s not a mistake her name is Marya, Tolstoy is hitting this one on the head pretty bluntly. Yet for as good as she is, Tolstoy writes her realistically in that she’s not without sin or superhuman, she also suffers from passion and pride, but she’s about as good a person as is probably possible.
And that makes her decision not marry Anatole so interesting because on the one hand you could say her lonely father is manipulating her (and he is), but on the other you could say she and Anatole could not possibly me married, they are two different species and she knows that. So her choosing not marry him is not so clear obvious.
And this is what Tolstoy does better than anyone: he presents all the possible “realities”, all the possible ways of looking at a situation, all possible perceptions, and then (and here’s the love him or hate him aspect of Tolstoy) swings the ax down on all the wrong possibilities and tells us what is actually right.