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Anna Karenina – Love, Society, and Tragic Choices

Anna Karenina – Love, Society, and Tragic Choices

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy is a compelling novel set in 19th-century Russia, revolving around the entangled lives of two women, Anna Karenina and Kitty, and the men they love. At its core, the story delves into the destructive consequences of Anna’s adulterous affair with Count Vronsky, which leads to her societal rejection and tragic demise. Parallel to Anna’s tragic story, we witness the blossoming of a pure and unselfish love between Kitty and Levin.

Anna Karenina

The novel opens with Anna’s arrival at her brother Stiva Oblonsky’s home, where she successfully convinces Stiva’s wife, Dolly, to forgive him after his betrayal. Anna is admired in society for her charm, sociability, and adept conflict resolution skills. Meanwhile, Levin, a humble landowner, harbors deep affection for Kitty, who, in turn, desires a relationship with Count Vronsky. However, Vronsky falls passionately in love with Anna, shattering Kitty’s hopes.

As Anna and Vronsky’s illicit relationship intensifies, Anna’s marriage to government official Alexei Karenin deteriorates further. Anna finds her husband repulsive and loveless. Despite Alexei’s pleas to keep their affair discreet, Anna openly declares her love for Vronsky, which leads to scandal and social ostracization.

When Anna becomes pregnant with Vronsky’s child, her husband refuses to divorce her, but he forgives her. Anna and Vronsky move to Italy, where they experience brief happiness. However, Anna’s longing for her son and former life in Russia leads her back, causing further strain on their relationship. Consumed by jealousy and possessiveness, Anna’s mental state deteriorates, leading her to turn to morphine. In a fit of severe depression, she tragically ends her life by throwing herself under a train.

In contrast, Kitty and Levin’s love story unfolds in a vastly different manner. Their relationship is built on trust, selflessness, and mutual respect. Despite Levin’s initial disappointment with Kitty’s rejection, fate brings them back together, and they get married. Their union is marked by compassion and strength as Kitty cares for Levin’s ill brother. Together, they find meaning in life and experience true happiness.

The novel explores themes of accepted and unaccepted behavior in society, drawing comparisons to Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary,” where unhappy women are often punished after seeking happiness outside their prescribed roles. Tolstoy employs a third-person narrator to provide insight and commentary on the characters and events, connecting readers to the story.

“Anna Karenina” is not only a captivating tale of love, but also a critique of a judgmental and hypocritical society that condemns adultery while turning a blind eye to the crumbling marriages behind closed doors.

In the end, the novel leaves readers contemplating the nature of love, happiness, and the significance of a content family life. It contrasts the passionate and possessive love between Anna and Vronsky, which led to destruction, with the enduring and genuine love shared between Kitty and Levin, leading to a fulfilled life.

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