“Anna Karenina” is a novel with a contemporary thematic in which the main theme is Anna’s adultery because of which she get rejected from society and experiences a tragic end. Parallel to her story we follow up on the destructive love between Anna and Vronsky and the love story between Levin and Kitty based on an unselfish love.
Tolstoy placed the plot in the 70’s of the 19th century in Russia and despite the characters living in the same place their stories don’t depend on each other, they are just a comment on each other.
The main part of the novel is based on questions about the accepted and unaccepted male and female behavior in the society for which this novel is often compared to Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary”. Both novels have some touching points and, except for the main theme, the unhappy woman character that gets punished after finding happiness is one of them.
Tolstoy, such as Flaubert, uses a narrator in the third person that knows all, comments on the events and works as a middleman between the characters and the readers.
The novel consists of a few event courses so every family is one backbone for the whole plot. Tolstoy introduces a few new themes that can be divided into couples like happiness-sadness, fortune-poverty.
The mentioned couples concentrate on two characters the most that become the carriers of two opposite courses. On one hand Anna is the symbol of wealthy society and fortune while Levin is humble and seeks a peaceful family life.
This novel is characterized with its parallel plots but it also has a ring structure in tying the chapters. the rings rely on differences and the never ending confrontations such as Levin’s love for Kitty who is in love with Vronsky who likes Anna.
The novel ends in the same way it began – with the question about adultery. Even though it has a plot the question remains open.
As the novel reaches its end the differences between Levin and Anna become smaller and the love between Kitty and Levin, even though described as unselfish and pure unlike Anna and Vronsky’s love, stumbles upon difficulties. the novel’s end offers the true question about the existence of a happy family.
Anna Karenina is also a crisis novel because it talks about hypocrisy and the judgmental society that sanctions any form of adultery as long as the marriage exists even if it is just on a piece of paper and the spouses drifted away for each other a long time ago.
Time: the 70’s of the 19th century
The novel begins with Anna’s arrival to her brother Stiva Oblonsky’s home. Stiva’s wife is Kitty’s sister Dolly. Dolly found out about her husband’s betrayal and the family is torn apart. Stiva can’t wait for Anna’s arrival because she was his salvation. She convinced Dolly to forgive her husband.
Anna is a highly appreciated woman in the society. She is charming, social and everyone loved her. She loves her nephews and her son and was very efficient in solving confrontations.
Levin was a poor landowner that enjoyed working on it. He was immensely in love with Kitty, the rich noble’s daughter that had her hopes up for an engagement with count Vronsky. Levin was disappointed and went to Moscow to dedicate himself to his job and property.
Vronsky met Kitty but to her disappointment he wasn’t interested in a marriage. On a ball he fell in love with Anna and the situation throws Kitty to desperation. the doctors suggest to her parents to take her out of Russia for a while so they all go on a trip together.
In Germany Kitty recovered, forgot about Vronsky and found new friends. Levin looked for her again and proposed. She accepted and they got married. Despite Levin’s jealousy and insecurity the marriage was happy and permanent. Kitty showed to be extremely compassionate and filled with strength while she was taking care of Levin’s ill brother Nikolai.
Kitty had a son which made her even happier. Levin is shown as a character that’s still looking for himself even after the marriage. He found faith in God but deep inside he knew that only she can solve his problems but in the end he found the meaning of life.
The relationship between Anna and Vronsky is completely different. Anna is married to a government administration official Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin. their relationship was cold and loveless. Anna was repulsed by her husband’s character, his rationality and irony.
After count Vronsky’s love statement Anna tries to run away from him by going to Moscow but Vronsky followed her and they saw each other on daily bases. Anna’s husband found out about them because of the rumors that were spreading. He begged Anna to keep their relationship on the down low to avoid a scandal but she didn’t listen to him at all.
Anna got pregnant with Vronsky and told him the news a bit before his participation in the horse race. the happy news almost killed him and Anna’s shocked facial expression gave away her feelings for him.
On the way home Anna admits her relationship to her husband but he refuses to divorce her. He forbids Vronsky from seeing Anna in their home. Months in suffering go by as Vronsky tries to convince Anna to leave her husband. She gave birth to a baby girl and in the post birth delirium Anna begs for husband’s forgiveness. He accepts her and her newborn and the news shocked Vronsky so much he tries to shot himself.
Since both of them are recovering Anna decides to run away with Vronsky. She takes the girl but her husband won’t let her take their son who she loved deeply. they moved to Italy and Anna is happily in love. After a while her sufferings for her son become bigger and it makes her go back to Russia. Vronsky accompanied her and as soon as she got to her old house she went to the child’s room where she was informed that her son was told she is dead.
Anna isn’t the favorite one in the Russian society because of her current situation. Even though Vronsky was an influential man because of her they went to his estate in the village where they keep on leading an extravagant, luxurious lifestyle.
Their life together gets tested when Vronsky minds that the little girl is carrying the last name Karenin so he asks Anna to divorce her husband. He also thinks more and more about the career and life he sacrificed for Anna. Anna become more possessive, jealous and craves her old life, son and social status back. She gets hysterical and starts taking morphine late at night. Her severe depression makes her thrown herself under a train. Vronsky can’t get over her death and lives an empty life. In the end he applied to volunteer in the Serbian-Turkish war.
In the novel we have two types of love. the happy love between Kitty and Levin build on love and trust and the turbulent and profound love between Anna and Vronsky based on selfishness and possessiveness. Also Anna was marked for life because of her adultery and even though adultery wasn’t considered something serious back in those days it had to be discrete. Anna was no hypocrite and she couldn’t act that she’s something she’s not so Anna didn’t hide her relationship with Vronsky. the pressure of the society makes her commit suicide.
Characters: Anna Karenina, Vronsky, Levin, Kitty
Anna Arkadyevna Karenina is the main character of the novel. She is a beautiful, smart, intelligent woman who lets her heart win over her mind. Because of the ‘’weakness” she had shown Tolstoy imposes a question to himself: “Is Anna really responsible for her actions? Can you blame someone for their feelings?”
The moment she realized she was in love with Vronsky, Anna was well aware about her excommunication from the society and a complete judgment of her actions that will in no way take into consideration whether she was happy in her marriage or not. She was ready to pay the price of her feelings because for her nothing could measure up to true love.
Even though it’s a love rejected from society she didn’t want to be a secret lover, hide her love or pretend she’s loyal to her husband. that is the proof that she had a higher level of moral that other woman, in spite her actions, because she took responsibility for her actions without faking rectitude in order to save her social status.
Tolstoy created her as a strong character that will be hard to judge because of her principles that make her stand out of the bunch of hypocrites. If Anna was described negatively in the beginning it would be easier not to feel sad about her ending but she wasn’t.
She is described in a way she can win over any reader because the decision to leave Alexei for Vronsky seemed natural and human. Because of that Anna comes off as a heroine and not a moral criminal.
With time the situation starts changing and true feelings are replaced by jealousy and doubts that lead to agony. Anna became nervous and selfish and she starts thinking how she doesn’t deserve her life because of everything she had done. In the end her suicide wasn’t a result of society judging her but of her own conscious.
Levin is a landowner, described as a man of a strong character like Anna that in the beginning believes that the meaning of human’s existence is his own happiness and he holds on to that thought until he meets Kitty. After the weeding he starts to realize that happiness isn’t always enough to make life complete.
His pure soul and a bit conservative opinion will bring safety to Kitty but it won’t bring her the passion and romantic feelings she had with Vronsky.
Levin is a character that knows he can’t be happy while so many people around him are unhappy, while the noblemen live like parasites and the peasants are starving. He rose upon the physical and realized that happiness can’t be found if we keep looking out for ourselves and don’t live for others as well.
Vronsky is a young, handsome official that lives a carefree life without falling in love but it all changed once he met Anna. With time he changed from an irresponsible man to a man in love capable to do anything for his loved one and even take responsibility for a child. Nothing lasts forever so the two of them stumble upon issues and even though he loves Anna he gets worried about the career he was neglecting.
The inner torments start influencing their relationship because Anna misses the son she had with her husband. In the end Anna throws herself under a train and Vronsy goes back to his old life and joins the Serbian-Turkish war.
Even though there’s no direct link between Anna’s suicide it is impossible to say that Vronsky had nothing to do with her tragic end despite the fact that he has shown his love for her on numerous occasions. He goes through different life stages so he fights, breaks down and forgives.
His guilt lies in the promise he made about love’s eternity but couldn’t keep. In the end he wasn’t defeated by the lack of love but by the desire to be an ordinary man just for a second.
As Vronsky went back to being his old self again Anna became more aware that she was his burden and became vengeful.
Kitty is one of nobleman’s three daughters from Moscow. She is in love with Vronsky but her father doesn’t agree because he prefers Levin while the mother approved of her daughter’s feelings. When Levin finally proposed Kitt said no, because she was still waiting for a marriage proposal from Vronsky.
After Vronsky rejected her because of his love for Anna Kitty was desperate for rejecting a kind man like Levin because of the insecure feelings she had with Vronsky. After she spend some time out of Russia Kitty became a stronger person and after she married Levin she showed stability and compassion by taking care of Levin’s brother Nicolai.
Kitty is a lovely girl whose innocent beauty couldn’t compare to Anna that enchanted Vronsky. Kitty was destined to be a faithful wife unlike Anna that was destined to accomplish something more in life. With time Kitty became a lovely woman from an innocent girl.
Leo Tolstoy Biography
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian novelist born in 1828. A profound social and moral thinker, Tolstoy was one of the greatest writers of realistic fiction during his time. The son of a nobleman landowner, Tolstoy was orphaned at the age of 9 and taught mainly by tutors from countries like Germany and France.
At the young age of 16, he enrolled in Kazan University but quickly became dissatisfied with his studies and dropped out soon after. After a brief, futile attempt to improve the conditions of the serfs on his estate, he plunged into the dissipation of Moscow’s high society.
In 1851, Tolstoy joined his brother’s regiment at the Caucasus, where he first met with cossacks. He later portrayed the natural cossacks life with sympathy and poetic realism in his novel ‘The Cossacks’, published in 1863. Tolstoy completed two autobiographical novels during his time in the regiment and the works received instant acclaim.
Back in Saint Petersburg (now Leningrad) Tolstoy became interested in the education of peasants and started a local elementary school that fostered progressive education.
In 1862 he married 18 year old Sofya Andreyevna Bers, a member of a cultured Moscow family. In the next 15 years he raised a large family, ultimately having 19 children. During this time he also managed his estate and wrote his two most famous novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877).
In the uniquely candid powerful novel Confession, Tolstoy described his spiritual unrest and started his long journey toward moral and social certainty. He found them in two principals of the Christian gospels: love for all human beings and resistance to the forces of evil. From within autocratic Russia, Tolstoy fearlessly attacked social inequality and coercive forms of government and church authority. His didactic essays, translated into many different languages, won hearts in many countries and from all walks of life, many of whom visited him in Russia seeking advice.
At the age of 82, increasingly tormented by the disparity between his teachings, his personal wealth and by endless fights with his wife, Tolstoy walked away from his home late one night. He became ill three days later and died on November 20, 1910 at a remote railway station. At his death he was praised the world over for being a wonderfully moral man. That force and his timeless and universal art continue to provide inspiration today.