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Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina


by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. Why does Anna refuse a divorce the first time it's offered, when Karenin forgives her over her supposed deathbed? If she had gotten a divorce, would her social position back in Petersburg have been better or worse? Why do you think so?
  2. Imagine Anna Karenina was set in the 21st Century. How would the story be different? Do you think Anna would still suffer the same fate?
  3. Think about Part 8 in relation to the rest of the novel. Why does time pass between Anna's death and the events of Part 8? Why do we get so much from Koznyshev's point of view instead of, say, Vronsky's? Why is the end of Anna Karenina concerned mainly with the resolution of Levin's spiritual crisis instead of the aftermath of Anna's death?
  4. Imagine that the Levin/Kitty storyline were removed from the novel. What kind of impact would that have on Anna's storyline and character? How would that change your experience of the novel?
  5. Tolstoy originally planned to write Anna Karenina as a cautionary tale about an immoral woman who destroys herself. But as he went through draft after draft of the novel, he found his main character growing increasingly complex and sympathetic. What other ways could Tolstoy have represented an adulteress? Do you agree with Tolstoy that Anna ultimately emerges as pitiful?
  6. Anna and Oblonsky are brother and sister, but they share something else beyond blood: adultery. Why does Oblonsky get away (socially) with his adulteries while Anna doesn't? If Anna Karenina had instead been about a man called Ivan Karenin who cheats on his wife, how would that have changed Tolstoy's moral and social points about adultery?
  7. How does Tolstoy use Anna Karenina as an argument for a particular kind of "good life"? What kinds of lives does Tolstoy give his stamp of approval, and what evidence do we get of this?

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