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Transcript of Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy
Set in 19th century Russia, Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina tells the intricate story of the lives of high class society and their lives of love, lust and lies. It follows 3 main characters; Anna, a married woman who falls in love with Vronsky, a young officer, Levin, a man who desperately seeks to win the heart of the beautiful Kitty and Stiva, a married man who cannot escape the temptations of lust. Throughout the novel, these characters lives raise questions of what love truly means and the things humans do for love and happiness in order to escape their suffering
The novel, Anna Karenina takes place in the growing country of Russia. The country itself is rich in culture and proud history. Two of the largest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg are the background for the majority of the novel, adding the the high society lives of the characters. The grand and luxurious metropolis and the peaceful Russian countryside create the beauty of Tolstoy's novel. It takes place during the mid 1800's, when Russia was a bustling and expanding country filled with new technological advancements and political ideas, adding a changing and developing theme to the plot.
Suffering: The theme of suffering is a topic that Tolstoy deeply explores throughout Anna Karenina. The main thought being that all humans will suffer in this world, as it is inevitable.Through the character of Anna he comes to the conclusion that suffering can end through death, when she commits suicide. Another way suffering can end, is through religion which is shown through the character of Levin when he is finally able to trust completely in God. The last alternative is through suffering itself, and living through it until death. Tolstoy shows this through Stiva and Dolly, in which Stiva is unfaithful to Dolly, but both choose to live with it.
Love: In Anna Karenina, love is revealed in many forms. The pure love between Levin and Kitty, the passionate love between Anna and Vronsky, the proud and merciful love between Anna and Alexei and the dutiful love between Stiva and Dolly. These are just some of the many ways love is shown. During the novel, this theme of love either grows and triumphs or slowly fades.
Toothache: Tolstoy uses the comparison of a toothache to both of Alexei and Vronsky's feelings of suffering caused by Anna. It signifies that it is always there, gnawing at the back of their mind. When Anna dies, Vronsky actually contracts a real toothache.
The flame: This represents both life and death which is described when Levin's son is born and when Anna throws herself underneath the train.
Style and Diction
In the entire novel, Tolstoy is able to keep a clear and consistent tone with a deep understanding of how the human mind works and the choices we make. His tone is very educated and formal, showing that he has a vast knowledge of his country, society and the Russian culture. The psychological aspects that he added were quite fascinating and truly questioned the terrible choices that humanity often makes.
"‘I think…if there are as many minds as there are men, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.’" (Tolstoy,138)
This quote really struck me as significant because Tolstoy portrays so many variants of love throughout Anna Karenina. It suggests that there are all different kinds of people and everyone loves people differently.
“Lying on his back, he was now looking at the high, cloudless sky. ‘Don’t I know that this is infinite space and not a round vault? But no matter how I squint and strain my sight, I
cannot help seeing it as round and limited, and despite my knowledge of infinite space, I am undoubtedly right when I see a firm blue vault, more right than when I strain to see
beyond it. Levin had stopped thinking and was as if only listening to the mysterious voices that spoke joyfully and anxiously about something among themselves. ‘Can this
be faith?’ he wondered, afraid to believe his happiness. ‘My God, thank you!’ he said, choking back the rising sobs and with both hands wiping away tears that filled his eyes.” (Tolstoy, 800)
When Levin finds his faith in God, he is able to escape the mental suffering that he has been going through. This is significant because Tolstoy presents this as the most fulfilling way to live one's life.
Looking for Alaska: This book explores the similar theme of human suffering through the character of Alaska Young. Her character is very similar to Anna's through their actions, thoughts and death. The author refers to the world as, "the labyrinth of suffering" and how we all spend our entire life trying to escape, concluding that "the way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive."
Portrait of an Unknown Woman: This painting was painted a short time after Anna Karenina was published, and many thought it was Anna herself. Many thought the woman looked haughty and immoral, but eventually it was recognized as a beautiful piece of artwork. It is often used as the book cover for the novel.
www.biography.com: This website provides an in depth look at Tolstoy's life and background. It talks about his personal struggles with religion, depression and suicide. He was able to find God in his own way and inspire many people around the world, including Mahatma Ghandi. Throughout his writing he still impacts people greatly today.
Anna Karenina Movie 2012: This recent release starring Keira Knightley, Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, shows a theatrical and emphatic side to the original novel. It was also set up like a play, shot on one location and the stage and background would change with the scenes. The costumes, cast, set and music all contributed to Tolstoy's masterpiece.
For my essay outline, I chose to focus on the three decisions that Tolstoy presents in Anna Karenina. Humans can escape suffering through death, through unhappiness, or through religion. Ultimately, the question is, how will you get out of this so called labyrinth?