Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Love

Love is a big deal in Anna Karenina. It is both a destructive and a productive force in the novel, and is understood inside and outside the context of marriage. The title character's adulterous aff...

Society and Class

Through Anna Karenina, it's clear that Tolstoy despises hypocrisy, and that's precisely what one finds in Petersburg and Moscow's high society circles – especially in Petersburg, which is fil...

Compassion and Forgiveness

The epigraph of the novel – the first real text we see after the title – points us to the importance of forgiveness (check out our section on "What's Up With the Epigraph?" for more on...

Gender

Tolstoy believes that people have specific roles they're "supposed to" fulfill. Many of these notions are uncomfortable for modern audiences. For example: the nobility has been given land, so they...

Family

Both the major plots of Anna Karenina – Anna's affair and Levin's discovery of love – hinge on family life. For Levin, the family is the basic unit of all productive society. His observ...

Isolation

Once Anna sleeps with Vronsky, there's the narrator tells us that she feels that she has committed a terrible crime, and Vronsky feels that he is looking at a corpse (Anna) whom he has murdered. Th...

Life, Creation, and Existence

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 refor...

Jealousy

Anna, the leading lady of Anna Karenina goes mad with jealousy as a result of isolation and guilt: having committed adultery, she can't seem to believe that anyone would be faithful to her. She bec...

Man and the Natural World

Over and over again in Anna Karenina, Tolstoy expresses his suspicion of man-made stuff. It seems that he thinks trains are ruining the Russian countryside by bringing peasants to the cities. Educa...

Religion

There are two kinds of religion in competition with one another in Anna Karenina. First, there's "real faith," represented by Karenin's forgiveness of Anna, Varenka's good works, Kitty's spirituali...

Language and Communication

There is a romantic scene in Part 4, Chapter 13 of Anna Karenina when Kitty and Levin communicate without speaking. Using just the first letters of the words they wish to exchange, Kitty and Levin...

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