A Brief Overview of Anna Karenina

*Warning: If you have not read Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, which is a marvelous novel that I suggest everyone reads, this blog post contains some spoilers.

Anna Karenina was written by Leo Tolstoy and published in 1877.  It is now a beautiful and well acclaimed piece of Russian Literature.   This novel portrays the story of a Russian family’s conflicts.  It also directly references the seven mortal sins, which plague the world, and their damage to the human condition.   Each character has a particular sin they struggle with.  Although this novel is titled Anna Karenina, the reader will notice that Anna is not the only main character of the story; there are many main characters and stories within this book.   This masterpiece narrates five different conflicts that are intertwined in the shared story of one family.

The first characters introduced in Anna Karenina are Stiva and Dolly Oblonsky; they are a married couple with six children.  Stiva describes himself as still young and handsome in appearance while he believes Dolly has become average looking. Dolly is the older sister of Kitty who is a beautiful young lady in search of a husband.  Vronsky and Levin are both courting Kitty, but Levin is the one who truly loves her and hopes to marry her.  Anna is Stiva’s sister; she is married to an older man named Karenin.  Together, they have one son.  The energy heightens when Anna comes to visit the Oblonsky household, and becomes acquainted with Vronsky who swiftly falls in love with her.

Anna visits the Oblonsky family because Stiva has had an affair with his children’s nanny.  This has caused Dolly to become distraught because not only has her husband cheated on her, but he does not seem to feel any remorse for his actions.  Meanwhile, Levin asks Kitty to marry him, but she refuses because she believes Vronsky is going to propose to her, and he has higher status than Levin. In the process of bringing peace between the couple, Anna meets Vronsky, causing him to leave Kitty because of his infatuation towards Anna.  Levin goes home to his farm where he broods over Kitty’s denial.  Anna returns home once Dolly has forgiven Stiva.  She intends to avoid Vronsky, but when he follows her, the two become swept up in a love affair.  Karenin pretends to be oblivious to his wife’s scandal, but when she gives birth to Vronsky’s daughter, he is forced to leave her and take away her rights to seeing her son.

The climax comes to its height when Anna becomes unhappy with her new way of life.  She wants her son back and believes that Vronsky no longer loves her.  Kitty has become depressed because of her constant regret on not marrying Levin.  Levin, meanwhile, stays on his farm where he refuses to forgive Kitty for not loving him back. Dolly meets Levin on one of her vacations to the countryside where she attempts to forget about her unfaithful husband.  She tries to persuade Levin to propose to Kitty a second time. Levin remains stubborn and refuses to see Kitty until he runs into her at a party.  The two quickly realize that they are in love.  They are married and have a child.  Dolly rejoices over her sister’s happiness although it has now been accepted that her husband no longer loves her.  While her family’s conflict is being resolved, Anna broods over her both physical and mental misfortune.  She makes a decision to end her misery.  After a fight with Vronsky, Anna throws herself in front of a train and is instantly killed.  Because Vronsky is too selfish and distraught to care for his own daughter, Karenin takes in the child and raises both of Anna’s children.  Vronsky leaves town to continue his life elsewhere.

     Anna Karenina is a beautiful novel about the flaws of human nature.  The conflict between Levin and Kitty represents the mortal sins of envy and self-centeredness.  Stiva and Dolly represent slothfulness.  Anna Karenina is both prideful and greedy.  She wants to be pleased at all times and does not take blame for her actions.  Because of Anna’s sinful ways, her husband, Karenin struggles with the mortal sin of anger.  Meanwhile, Vronsky embraces his lust for Anna.  Anna Karenina is a masterpiece that everyone should consider reading.  It informs the reader of the weakness of human nature and how our sinful ways can cause not only us but everyone around us to fall into sin.



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