by Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina Compassion and Forgiveness Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Constance Garnett's translation in the "Quotes" section, but referred to Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation in other parts of the guide.
[Dolly:] "No, wait a minute. You must not ruin her. Wait a little; I will tell you about myself. I was married, and my husband deceived me; in anger and jealousy, I would have thrown up everything, I would myself.... But I came to myself again; and who did it? Anna saved me. And here I am living on. The children are growing up, my husband has come back to his family, and feels his fault, is growing purer, better, and I live on.... I have forgiven it, and you ought to forgive!"
Alexey Alexandrovitch [Karenin] heard her, but her words had no effect on him now. All the hatred of that day when he had resolved on a divorce had sprung up again in his soul. He shook himself, and said in a shrill, loud voice: –
"Forgive I cannot, and do not wish to, and I regard it as wrong. I have done everything for this woman, and she has trodden it all in the mud to which she is akin. I am not a spiteful man, I have never hated anyone, but I hate her with my whole soul, and I cannot even forgive her, because I hate her too much for all the wrong she has done me!" he said, with tones of hatred in his voice. (4.12.41)
While Dolly was able to forgive her cheating husband and move on with her life, Karenin is adamant here that he lacks the capacity to forgive all the wrong that Anna has done to him.
"You can't forgive me," [Levin] whispered.
[Kitty:] "Yes, I forgive you; but it's terrible!"
But his happiness was so immense that this confession did not shatter it, it only added another shade to it. She forgave him; but from that time more than ever he considered himself unworthy of her, morally bowed down lower than ever before her, and prized more highly than ever his undeserved happiness. (4.16.34)
Kitty's forgiveness of Levin's past indiscretions only inflames his love for her. Tolstoy paints Kitty as virtuous woman because she has the capacity to forgive. Similarly, when Karenin forgives Anna (see 4.17.39), we the readers and Tolstoy consider him to be a good man.
[Karenin:] "But I saw her and forgave her. And the happiness of forgiveness has revealed to me my duty. I forgive completely. I would offer the other cheek, I would give my cloak if my coat be taken. I pray to God only not to take from me the bliss of forgiveness!"
Tears stood in his eyes, and the luminous, serene look in them impressed Vronsky.
You may trample me in the mud, make me the laughing-stock of society, I will not abandon her, I will never say a word of reproach to you. (4.17.52-54)
Karenin's moment of forgiveness is his highest moment in the novel. Interestingly, forgiving Anna is more important for Karenin than it is for Anna. He feels "bliss" when he finally let's go of his anger at her. Karenin's Christian willingness to forgive (Karenin uses Jesus' instructions to his followers to turn the other cheek in the Gospel of Matthew) is genuine while it lasts. But it doesn't last forever. For more on Karenin's moment of forgiveness, check out Karenin's "Character Analysis" and our discussion on "What's Up with the Epigraph?"