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Themes

Levin's plotline is entirely concerned with justifying his life on Earth. He starts out Anna Karenina filled with doubts about his purpose in life. He believes that he can justify his life by reforming Russia's agricultural systems. However, as he grows as a person, he invests more of his emotional life into his family. Finally, his epiphany at the end of the novel reveals the real meaning of (at least, Levin's) life: we all have to live for the best in our own natures. Rather than sweeping around dictating other people's reforms, life would be perfect if everyone just minded their own estates and loved their wives and children as they should be loved.

Questions About Life, Creation, and Existence

  1. Why does Anna kill herself?
  2. Which life is more appealing – Anna's or Dolly's? Why?
  3. What do you think of Levin's method for finding meaning in his life?
  4. Aside from Levin, do any other characters look for meaning in life? If so, where do they find it?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

If Anna had stopped viewing Vronsky as the end-all and be-all of her existence, her life might not have ended in suicide.

Dolly's life is ultimately more appealing than Anna's because not even Anna's great passion for Vronsky can substitute for the emptiness of the rest of her life.

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