Study Guide

Anna Karenina Quotes

  • Love

    No, no, reconciliation is impossible. Even if we remain in the same house, we are strangers – strangers forever!" She repeated again with special significance the word so dreadful to her. "And how I loved him! my God, how I loved him!.... How I loved him! And now don't I love him? Don't I love him more than before? The most horrible thing is," she began, but did not finish her thought, because Matrona Philimonovna put her head in at the door. (1.4.41)

    In her confusion of trying to evaluate whether or not she still loves her unfaithful husband, Dolly shows that love is a contradictory emotion. Here, Dolly also serves as a foil for Karenin – when he finds out that Anna has been cheating on him, he will also have to decide how he feels about his wife.

    One would have thought that nothing could be simpler than for him, a man of good family, rather rich than poor, and thirty-two years old, to make the young Princess Shtcherbatskaya an offer of marriage; in all likelihood he would at once have been looked upon as a good match. But Levin was in love, and so it seemed to him that Kitty was so perfect in every respect that she was a creature far above everything earthly; and that he was a creature so low and so earthly that it could not even be conceived that other people and she herself could regard him as worthy of her. (1.6.4)

    Levin's love puts Kitty on an impossibly high pedestal and also leads him to think irrationally.

    [Kitty] expected [Vronsky] to ask her for a waltz, but he did not, and she glanced wonderingly at him. He flushed slightly, and hurriedly asked her to waltz, but he had only just put his arm round her waist and taken the first step when the music suddenly stopped. Kitty looked into his face, which was so close to her own, and long afterwards – for several years after – that look, full of love, to which he made no response, cut her to the heart with an agony of shame. (1.22.24)

    It is not only Vronsky's lack of response that breaks Kitty's heart at the ball, but her sense of embarrassment at her own misjudgment. She let herself fall in love with a man who, ultimately, wasn't equally interested in her.

    "I wonder at the parents! They say it's a marriage for love."

    "For love? What antediluvian notions you have! Can one talk of love in these days?" said the ambassador's wife.

    "What's to be done? It's a foolish old fashion that's kept up still," said Vronsky.

    "So much the worse for those who keep up the fashion. The only happy marriages I know are marriages of prudence." (2.7.10-13)

    In Russian society depicted here, people often choose not to marry for societal position and wealth rather than love. Anna seems to be among this number. The society members here are of the opinion that the best marriages are not ones created on the basis of love. However, Tolstoy seems to be of the opposite opinion. The happiest marriage we see in the novel is the loving marriage between Levin and Kitty, which stands in stark contrast to Anna's "prudent" marriage to Karenin.

    He was angry with all of them for their interference just because he felt in his soul that they, all these people, were right. He felt that the love that bound him to Anna was not a momentary impulse, which would pass, as worldly intrigues do pass, leaving no other traces in the life of either but pleasant or unpleasant memories. He felt all the torture of his own and her position, all the difficulty there was for them, conspicuous as they were in the eye of all the world, in concealing their love, in lying and deceiving; and in lying, deceiving, feigning, and continually thinking of others, when the passion that united them was so intense that they were both oblivious of everything else but their love. (2.21.34)

    Even though the world is against their affair, Vronsky believes that all he and Anna need is their love for each other. Over the course of the novel, we see how he underestimated the impact social isolation could have on Anna.

    Levin looked more attentively at Ivan Parmenov and his wife. They were loading a haycock onto the cart not far from him. Ivan Parmenov was standing on the cart, taking, laying in place, and stamping down the huge bundles of hay, which his pretty young wife deftly handed up to him, at first in armfuls, and then on the pitchfork. The young wife worked easily, merrily, and dexterously. The close-packed hay did not once break away off her fork. First she gathered it together, stuck the fork into it, then with a rapid, supple movement leaned the whole weight of her body on it, and at once with a bend of her back under the red belt she drew herself up, and arching her full bosom under the white smock, with a smart turn swung the fork in her arms, and flung the bundle of hay high onto the cart. Ivan, obviously doing his best to save her every minute of unnecessary labor, made haste, opening his arms to clutch the bundle and lay it in the cart. As she raked together what was left of the hay, the young wife shook off the bits of hay that had fallen on her neck, and straightening the red kerchief that had dropped forward over her white brow, not browned like her face by the sun, she crept under the cart to tie up the load. Ivan directed her how to fasten the cord to the cross-piece, and at something she said he laughed aloud. In the expressions of both faces was to be seen vigorous, young, freshly awakened love. (3.11.15)

    For Levin, the ideal of love he observes in the peasant couple is not passion alone but shared work.

    "He's right!" she said; "of course, he's always right; he's a Christian, he's generous! Yes, vile, base creature! And no one understands it except me, and no one ever will; and I can't explain it. They say he's so religious, so high-principled, so upright, so clever; but they don't see what I've seen. They don't know how he has crushed my life for eight years, crushed everything that was living in me – he has not once even thought that I'm a live woman who must have love. They don't know how at every step he's humiliated me, and been just as pleased with himself. Haven't I striven, striven with all my strength, to find something to give meaning to my life? Haven't I struggled to love him, to love my son when I could not love my husband? But the time came when I knew that I couldn't cheat myself any longer, that I was alive, that I was not to blame, that God has made me so that I must love and live. And now what does he do? If he'd killed me, if he'd killed him, I could have borne anything, I could have forgiven anything; but, no, he.... How was it I didn't guess what he would do? He's doing just what's characteristic of his mean character. He'll keep himself in the right, while me, in my ruin, he'll drive still lower to worse ruin yet..." (3.16.6)

    Anna argues that Karenin has never once given her love. She has tried to find other means of obtaining love, but ultimately, she must love in order to be fulfilled. And that means a life with Vronsky. Later in the novel, Dolly sympathizes with Anna's situation. She says, "How is she to blame, then? She wants to live. God has put that into our souls" (6.61.17). Though Dolly (and Tolstoy!) doesn't approve of Anna's affair, she can still understand and sympathize with Anna's need for love. Notice how both Anna and Dolly claim humans require love – God made people that way.

    She was an honorable woman who had bestowed her love upon him, and he loved her, and therefore she was in his eyes a woman who had a right to the same, or even more, respect than a lawful wife. He would have had his hand chopped off before he would have allowed himself by a word, by a hint, to humiliate her, or even to fall short of the fullest respect a woman could look for. (3.20.3)

    In Vronsky's eyes, love legitimizes all. He refuses to disrespect Anna for cheating on her husband.

    But he could not at once recall what he had been going to say. These fits of jealousy, which of late had been more and more frequent with her, horrified him, and however much he tried to disguise the fact, made him feel cold to her, although he knew the cause of her jealousy was her love for him. How often he had told himself that her love was happiness; and now she loved him as a woman can love when love has outweighed for her all the good things of life – and he was much further from happiness than when he had followed her from Moscow. Then he had thought himself unhappy, but happiness was before him; now he felt that the best happiness was already left behind. She was utterly unlike what she had been when he first saw her. Both morally and physically she had changed for the worse. She had broadened out all over, and in her face at the time when she was speaking of the actress there was an evil expression of hatred that distorted it. He looked at her as a man looks at a faded flower he has gathered, with difficulty recognizing in it the beauty for which he picked and ruined it. And in spite of this he felt that then, when his love was stronger, he could, if he had greatly wished it, have torn that love out of his heart; but now, when as at that moment it seemed to him he felt no love for her, he knew that what bound him to her could not be broken. (4.3.17)

    Vronsky thought he would find happiness with Anna through his love. Even when he learns that his love has nothing to do with happiness, and even when his love for Anna is fading, he feels inextricably bound to her. After all, he believes it's his fault that she has "changed for the worse." In convincing Anna to have an affair with him, he destroyed the woman he loved. After "ruining" her, he feels he can't abandon her. You can find more evidence for this perspective in the scene when Vronsky and Anna first sleep together – he is described as a murder, and she the corpse of his victim.

    "Not at all," he said. "Listen to me. You can't see your own position as I can. Let me tell you candidly my opinion." Again he smiled discreetly his almond-oil smile. "I'll begin from the beginning. You married a man twenty years older than yourself. You married him without love and not knowing what love was. It was a mistake, let's admit." (4.21.24)

    Anna has never known romantic love until Vronsky appeared in her life. Both Anna and Vronsky see this as a sort of justification for their affair.

    As a bachelor, when he had watched other people's married life, seen the petty cares, the squabbles, the jealousy, he had only smiled contemptuously in his heart. In his future married life there could be, he was convinced, nothing of that sort; even the external forms, indeed, he fancied, must be utterly unlike the life of others in everything. And all of a sudden, instead of his life with his wife being made on an individual pattern, it was, on the contrary, entirely made up of the pettiest details, which he had so despised before, but which now, by no will of his own, had gained an extraordinary importance that it was useless to contend against. And Levin saw that the organization of all these details was by no means so easy as he had fancied before. Although Levin believed himself to have the most exact conceptions of domestic life, unconsciously, like all men, he pictured domestic life as the happiest enjoyment of love, with nothing to hinder and no petty cares to distract. He ought, as he conceived the position, to do his work, and to find repose from it in the happiness of love. She ought to be beloved, and nothing more. But, like all men, he forgot that she too would want work. And he was surprised that she, his poetic, exquisite Kitty, could, not merely in the first weeks, but even in the first days of their married life, think, remember, and busy herself about tablecloths, and furniture, about mattresses for visitors, about a tray, about the cook, and the dinner, and so on. While they were still engaged, he had been struck by the definiteness with which she had declined the tour abroad and decided to go into the country, as though she knew of something she wanted, and could still think of something outside her love. This had jarred upon him then, and now her trivial cares and anxieties jarred upon him several times. But he saw that this was essential for her. And, loving her as he did, though he did not understand the reason of them, and jeered at these domestic pursuits, he could not help admiring them. He jeered at the way in which she arranged the furniture they had brought from Moscow; rearranged their room; hung up curtains; prepared rooms for visitors; a room for Dolly; saw after an abode for her new maid; ordered dinner of the old cook; came into collision with Agafea Mihalovna, taking from her the charge of the stores. He saw how the old cook smiled, admiring her, and listening to her inexperienced, impossible orders, how mournfully and tenderly Agafea Mihalovna shook her head over the young mistress's new arrangements. He saw that Kitty was extraordinarily sweet when, laughing and crying, she came to tell him that her maid, Masha, was used to looking upon her as her young lady, and so no one obeyed her. It seemed to him sweet, but strange, and he thought it would have been better without this. (5.14.2)

    Levin is astonished to see that Kitty isn't consumed by love, but has practical considerations. He also learns that married life isn't always smooth sailing. While Levin does not understand the importance of Kitty's domestic focus, he tries to respect her concerns anyway.

    "Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be. And if you don't love me any more, it would be better and more honest to say so." (7.24.31)

    Anna finds the idea of Vronsky's respect abhorrent – she wants his love. She's been in a loveless relationship before (with Karenin), and is terrified of losing Vronsky. She's also bitter because she gave up everything – her reputation, her son, etc. – for love of Vronsky. Without him, she feels she'd have nothing left.

    "My love keeps growing more passionate and egoistic, while his is waning and waning, and that's why we're drifting apart." She went on musing. "And there's no help for it. He is everything for me, and I want him more and more to give himself up to me entirely. And he wants more and more to get away from me. We walked to meet each other up to the time of our love, and then we have been irresistibly drifting in different directions. And there's no altering that. He tells me I'm insanely jealous, and I have told myself that I am insanely jealous; but it's not true. I'm not jealous, but I'm unsatisfied. But..." she opened her lips, and shifted her place in the carriage in the excitement, aroused by the thought that suddenly struck her. "If I could be anything but a mistress, passionately caring for nothing but his caresses; but I can't and I don't care to be anything else. And by that desire I rouse aversion in him, and he rouses fury in me, and it cannot be different. Don't I know that he wouldn't deceive me, that he has no schemes about Princess Sorokina, that he's not in love with Kitty, that he won't desert me! I know all that, but it makes it no better for me. If without loving me, from duty, he'll be good and kind to me, without what I want, that's a thousand times worse than unkindness! That's – hell! And that's just how it is. For a long while now he hasn't loved me. And where love ends, hate begins." (7.30.4)

    Anna vows that she will not accept love born out of a sense of duty. Do you think this is what Vronsky really feels toward her? Is she accurately assessing her situation?

  • Society and Class

    And Levin went out of the room, only when he was in the doorway remembering that he had forgotten to take leave of Oblonsky's colleagues. (1.5.73)

    Levin is socially awkward. He's clearly not used to high society, since he prefers spending time on his country estate.

    Levin's conviction that it could not be was founded on the idea that in the eyes of her family he was a disadvantageous and worthless match for the charming Kitty, and that Kitty herself could not love him. In her family's eyes he had no ordinary, definite career and position in society, while his contemporaries by this time, when he was thirty-two, were already, one a colonel, and another a professor, another director of a bank and railways, or president of a board like Oblonsky. But he (he knew very well how he must appear to others) was a country gentleman, occupied in breeding cattle, shooting game, and building barns; in other words, a fellow of no ability, who had not turned out well, and who was doing just what, according to the ideas of the world, is done by people fit for nothing else. (1.6.6)

    Levin is fully aware that the path he chose in life is not one that is admired by society at large, but is looked down upon instead. Levin provides a contrast to characters like Oblonsky and Karenin, who have impressive careers and live in the city, but don't have the happy, fulfilling life that Levin has by the end of the novel.

    In Moscow he had for the first time felt, after his luxurious and coarse life at Petersburg, all the charm of intimacy with a sweet and innocent girl of his own rank, who cared for him. It never even entered his head that there could be any harm in his relations with Kitty. At balls he danced principally with her. He was a constant visitor at their house. He talked to her as people commonly do talk in society – all sorts of nonsense, but nonsense to which he could not help attaching a special meaning in her case. Although he said nothing to her that he could not have said before everybody, he felt that she was becoming more and more dependent upon him, and the more he felt this, the better he liked it, and the more tender was his feeling for her. He did not know that his mode of behavior in relation to Kitty had a definite character, that it is courting young girls with no intention of marriage, and that such courting is one of the evil actions common among brilliant young men such as he was. It seemed to him that he was the first who had discovered this pleasure, and he was enjoying his discovery.

    If he could have heard what her parents were saying that evening, if he could have put himself at the point of view of the family and have heard that Kitty would be unhappy if he did not marry her, he would have been greatly astonished, and would not have believed it. He could not believe that what gave such great and delicate pleasure to him, and above all to her, could be wrong. Still less could he have believed that he ought to marry. (1.16.3-4)

    Having engaged in a life full of debauchery, Vronsky has no idea of how society views his conduct with Kitty. Though Vronsky feels that he has no obligations toward Kitty, thinking that they're just having a good time, she and her family fully expect him to marry her.

    "I know more of the world than you do," [Anna] said. "I know how men like Stiva look at it. You speak of his talking of you with her. That never happened. Such men are unfaithful, but their home and wife are sacred to them. Somehow or other these women are still looked on with contempt by them, and do not touch on their feeling for their family. They draw a sort of line that can't be crossed between them and their families. I don't understand it, but it is so." (1.19.47)

    Anna argues to Dolly that for men like Stiva, infidelity is never allowed to interfere with their home life. This is a socially acceptable form of infidelity. Interestingly, when Anna later commits adultery herself, her home and husband do not remain "sacred" to her. Her relationship with Vronsky does "cross the line between [her] and [her] family." Unlike Oblonsky, Anna leaves her family behind entirely, even giving up her son to be with Vronsky. Maybe this is part of the reason why society shuns Anna while accepting Oblonsky.

    He was so far from conceiving of love for woman apart from marriage that he positively pictured to himself first the family, and only secondarily the woman who would give him a family. His ideas of marriage were, consequently, quite unlike those of the great majority of his acquaintances, for whom getting married was one of the numerous facts of social life. For Levin it was the chief affair of life, on which its whole happiness turned. And now he had to give up that. (1.27.3)

    Although most of Levin's equals in society view marriage as yet another obligation, or part of social life, Levin takes marriage more seriously. This is another example of how Levin veers away from societal norms.

    Vronsky heard with pleasure this light-hearted prattle of a pretty woman, agreed with her, gave her half-joking counsel, and altogether dropped at once into the tone habitual to him in talking to such women. In his Petersburg world all people were divided into utterly opposed classes. One, the lower class, vulgar, stupid, and, above all, ridiculous people, who believe that one husband ought to live with the one wife whom he has lawfully married; that a girl should be innocent, a woman modest, and a man manly, self-controlled, and strong; that one ought to bring up one's children, earn one's bread, and pay one's debts; and various similar absurdities. This was the class of old-fashioned and ridiculous people. But there was another class of people, the real people. To this class they all belonged, and in it the great thing was to be elegant, generous, plucky, gay, to abandon oneself without a blush to every passion, and to laugh at everything else.

    For the first moment only, Vronsky was startled after the impression of a quite different world that he had brought with him from Moscow. But immediately as though slipping his feet into old slippers, he dropped back into the light-hearted, pleasant world he had always lived in. (1.34.16-17)

    Vronsky divides society into two groups. He belongs to, and prefers, a hedonistic, carefree world of loose morals. He ridicules the other half of society, people that follow society's expected path of marrying and having children, considering them "old-fashioned," "ridiculous," and "stupid." Over the course of the novel, however, we see that Vronsky has misjudged his social group. Maybe there aren't two clear-cut groups. When his friends don't accept his intense, public affair with Anna, he beings to see them as "old-fashioned" as well. Check out the quote below on 5.28.6 for more on this.

    "None whatever," said Vronsky, laughing and showing his even rows of teeth. "Excuse me," he added, taking an opera glass out of her hand, and proceeding to scrutinize, over her bare shoulder, the row of boxes facing them. "I'm afraid I'm becoming ridiculous."

    He was very well aware that he ran no risk of being ridiculous in the eyes of Betsy or any other fashionable people. He was very well aware that in their eyes the position of an unsuccessful lover of a girl, or of any woman free to marry, might be ridiculous. But the position of a man pursuing a married woman, and, regardless of everything, staking his life on drawing her into adultery, has something fine and grand about it, and can never be ridiculous; and so it was with a proud and gay smile under his mustaches that he lowered the opera glass and looked at his cousin. (2.4.13-14)

    Vronsky knows that society fully condones young men pursuing married women, but a married woman responding to this pursuit does not get the same response.

    "Stay, stay," he began, interrupting Oblonsky. "You talk of his being an aristocrat. But allow me to ask what it consists in, that aristocracy of Vronsky or of anybody else, beside which I can be looked down upon? You consider Vronsky an aristocrat, but I don't. A man whose father crawled up from nothing at all by intrigue, and whose mother – God knows whom she wasn't mixed up with.... No, excuse me, but I consider myself aristocratic, and people like me, who can point back in the past to three or four honorable generations of their family, of the highest degree of breeding (talent and intellect, of course that's another matter), and have never curried favor with anyone, never depended on anyone for anything, like my father and my grandfather. And I know many such. You think it mean of me to count the trees in my forest, while you make Ryabinin a present of thirty thousand; but you get rents from your lands and I don't know what, while I don't and so I prize what's come to me from my ancestors or been won by hard work.... We are aristocrats, and not those who can only exist by favor of the powerful of this world, and who can be bought for two pence halfpenny." (2.17.31)

    Levin has a different view of his social position than Vronsky, and he disrespects Vronsky for coming from "new money" and for not having worked to maintain his position as an aristocrat.

    Vronsky's mother, on hearing of his connection, was at first pleased at it, because nothing to her mind gave such a finishing touch to a brilliant young man as a liaison in the highest society; she was pleased, too, that Madame Karenina, who had so taken her fancy, and had talked so much of her son, was, after all, just like all other pretty and well-bred women, – at least according to the Countess Vronskaya's ideas. But she had heard of late that her son had refused a position offered him of great importance to his career, simply in order to remain in the regiment, where he could be constantly seeing Madame Karenina. She learned that great personages were displeased with him on this account, and she changed her opinion. She was vexed, too, that from all she could learn of this connection it was not that brilliant, graceful, worldly liaison which she would have welcomed, but a sort of Wertherish, desperate passion, so she was told, which might well lead him into imprudence. She had not seen him since his abrupt departure from Moscow, and she sent her elder son to bid him come to see her. (2.18.4)

    Adultery itself is not condemned outright, but society really begins to turn on Anna and Vronsky's affair when it is clear that real feelings are involved.

    "Very well! But I expect a strict observance of the external forms of propriety till such time" – his voice shook – "as I may take measures to secure my honor and communicate them to you." (2.29.42)

    Karenin is mostly concerned with upholding the external demands of propriety. He's more concerned with how Anna's affair will affect his reputation than how it affects their marriage. This paints Karenin as a rather cold character; he doesn't seem to have loved his wife at all. We readers can't help but feel sympathy for Anna, realizing that she's been stuck in a loveless marriage.

    "Really! what an idea! But tell me, how do the peasants look at it? I suppose they laugh in their sleeves at their master's being such a queer fish?" (3.4.16)

    Levin's affinity for mowing with the peasants is yet another way in which he flaunts dominant social mores.

    Vronsky was continually conscious of the necessity of never for a second relaxing the tone of stern official respectfulness, that he might not himself be insulted. The prince's manner of treating the very people who, to Vronsky's surprise, were ready to descend to any depths to provide him with Russian amusements, was contemptuous. His criticisms of Russian women, whom he wished to study, more than once made Vronsky crimson with indignation. The chief reason why the prince was so particularly disagreeable to Vronsky was that he could not help seeing himself in him. And what he saw in this mirror did not gratify his self-esteem. He was a very stupid and very self-satisfied and very healthy and very well-washed man, and nothing else. He was a gentleman – that was true, and Vronsky could not deny it. He was equable and not cringing with his superiors, was free and ingratiating in his behavior with his equals, and was contemptuously indulgent with his inferiors. Vronsky was himself the same, and regarded it as a great merit to be so. But for this prince he was an inferior, and his contemptuous and indulgent attitude to him revolted him.

    "Brainless beef! can I be like that?" he thought. (4.1.6-7)

    Vronsky is astonished and repulsed when coming face to face with a mirror image of his own conduct in society.

    But as time went on, he saw more and more distinctly that however natural the position now seemed to him, he would not long be allowed to remain in it. He felt that besides the blessed spiritual force controlling his soul, there was another, a brutal force, as powerful, or more powerful, which controlled his life, and that this force would not allow him that humble peace he longed for. He felt that everyone was looking at him with inquiring wonder, that he was not understood, and that something was expected of him. Above all, he felt the instability and unnaturalness of his relations with his wife. (4.19.3)

    Karenin is comfortable in his current situation, but he knows that society will force him to do something about Anna's adultery, even though he himself has made peace with it. For more on this topic, check out Karenin's "Character Analysis."

    "I am very grateful to you for your confidence, but..." he said, feeling with confusion and annoyance that what he could decide easily and clearly by himself, he could not discuss before Princess Tverskaya, who to him stood for the incarnation of that brute force which would inevitably control him in the life he led in the eyes of the world, and hinder him from giving way to his feeling of love and forgiveness. He stopped short, looking at Princess Tverskaya. (4.19.48)

    For Karenin, Princess Betsy embodies all the societal pressures and forces that are bending him to act in a direction contrary to his true feelings. He wants to forgive Anna (and we want him to forgive Anna!), but Betsy is pushing him in a different direction. You can learn more about Karenin's conflict over how to treat Anna in his "Character Analysis."

    He felt that he could not endure the weight of universal contempt and exasperation, which he had distinctly seen in the face of the clerk and of Korney, and of everyone, without exception, whom he had met during those two days. He felt that he could not turn aside from himself the hatred of men, because that hatred did not come from his being bad (in that case he could have tried to be better), but from his being shamefully and repulsively unhappy. He knew that for this, for the very fact that his heart was torn with grief, they would be merciless to him. He felt that men would crush him as dogs strangle a torn dog yelping with pain. He knew that his sole means of security against people was to hide his wounds from them, and instinctively he tried to do this for two days, but now he felt incapable of keeping up the unequal struggle. (5.21.5)

    Here society is painted as cruel, eager to "crush him" and tear him to pieces. Karenin lacks the inner strength to stand up to societal contempt. Anna certainly faces a similarly cruel society, one that treats her as an outcast.

    While he was governor of a province, Anna's aunt, a wealthy provincial lady, had thrown him – middle-aged as he was, though young for a governor – with her niece, and had succeeded in putting him in such a position that he had either to declare himself or to leave the town. Alexey Alexandrovitch was not long in hesitation. There were at the time as many reasons for the step as against it, and there was no overbalancing consideration to outweigh his invariable rule of abstaining when in doubt. But Anna's aunt had through a common acquaintance insinuated that he had already compromised the girl, and that he was in honor bound to make her an offer. He made the offer, and concentrated on his betrothed and his wife all the feeling of which he was capable. (5.21.9)

    Karenin was forced to marry Anna because her aunt spread a rumor that Karenin had already been fooling around with Anna, which was definitely not allowed. Karenin and Anna's relationship was founded on deceit, social manipulation, and Karenin's desire to maintain a good reputation.

    In spite of all his social experience Vronsky was, in consequence of the new position in which he was placed, laboring under a strange misapprehension. One would have thought he must have understood that society was closed for him and Anna; but now some vague ideas had sprung up in his brain that this was only the case in old-fashioned days, and that now with the rapidity of modern progress (he had unconsciously become by now a partisan of every sort of progress) the views of society had changed, and that the question whether they would be received in society was not a foregone conclusion. "Of course," he thought, "she would not be received at court, but intimate friends can and must look at it in the proper light." One may sit for several hours at a stretch with one's legs crossed in the same position, if one knows that there's nothing to prevent one's changing one's position; but if a man knows that he must remain sitting so with crossed legs, then cramps come on, the legs begin to twitch and to strain towards the spot to which one would like to draw them. This was what Vronsky was experiencing in regard to the world. Though at the bottom of his heart he knew that the world was shut on them, he put it to the test whether the world had not changed by now and would not receive them. But he very quickly perceived that though the world was open for him personally, it was closed for Anna. Just as in the game of cat and mouse, the hands raised for him were dropped to bar the way for Anna. (5.28.6)

    Vronsky is surprised to realize the extent to which Anna is ostracized in society. At first he thought that times and morals had changed, particularly in his social group, and that their affair would be accepted. He believed that Anna's friends would stand by her. But this isn't the case. While Vronsky's reputation is undamaged, Anna is excluded from society.

    Vronsky for the first time experienced a feeling of anger against Anna, almost a hatred for her willfully refusing to understand her own position. This feeling was aggravated by his being unable to tell her plainly the cause of his anger. If he had told her directly what he was thinking, he would have said:

    "In that dress, with a princess only too well known to everyone, to show yourself at the theater is equivalent not merely to acknowledging your position as a fallen woman, but is flinging down a challenge to society, that is to say, cutting yourself off from it forever." (5.33.1-2)

    Anna's determination to go to the opera will seal her fate as a fallen woman. Anna has rebelled against society by making her relationship with Vronsky public, but she doesn't seem to understand what has happened. Over time, this causes a huge conflict between Anna and Vronsky – she is excluded by society, but he isn't.

    "Divorce, you mean?" said Anna. "Do you know, the only woman who came to see me in Petersburg was Betsy Tverskaya? You know her, of course? At bottom she's the most depraved woman in existence. She had an affair with Tushkevitch, deceiving her husband in the basest way. And she told me that she did not care to know me so long as my position was irregular. (6.23.20)

    Princess Betsy lives a false life, and is accepted by society. Anna is frustrated that Betsy can get away with adultery through deceit, while she herself is ostracized as a result of being honest and making her love public.

    In solitude afterwards, thinking over that glance which had expressed his right to freedom, she came, as she always did, to the same point – the sense of her own humiliation. "He has the right to go away when and where he chooses. Not simply to go away, but to leave me. He has every right, and I have none. But knowing that, he ought not to do it." (6.32.2)

    One of the biggest conflicts in Vronsky and Anna's relationship is that he's free to go about in society, and she is not. In other words, he can basically keep up the same lifestyle, while her life is irreversibly changed. Would Vronsky have been able to endure the complete social isolation that Anna suffers?

    [Kitty:] "Put on your frock coat, so that you can go straight to call on Countess Bola."

    [Levin:] "But is it absolutely necessary?"

    [Kitty:] "Oh, absolutely! He has been to see us. Come, what is it? You go in, sit down, talk for five minutes of the weather, get up and go away."

    [Levin:] "Oh, you wouldn't believe it! I've got so out of the way of all this that it makes me feel positively ashamed. It's such a horrible thing to do! A complete outsider walks in, sits down, stays on with nothing to do, wastes their time and worries himself, and walks away!" (7.2.11-14)

    Levin feels uncomfortable paying social calls, in part because the interactions seem so superficial to him.

    In the circle to which Sergey Ivanovitch belonged, nothing was talked of or written about just now but the Servian War. Everything that the idle crowd usually does to kill time was done now for the benefit of the Slavonic States. Balls, concerts, dinners, matchboxes, ladies' dresses, beer, restaurants – everything testified to sympathy with the Slavonic peoples.

    From much of what was spoken and written on the subject, Sergey Ivanovitch differed on various points. He saw that the Slavonic question had become one of those fashionable distractions which succeed one another in providing society with an object and an occupation. He saw, too, that a great many people were taking up the subject from motives of self-interest and self-advertisement. He recognized that the newspapers published a great deal that was superfluous and exaggerated, with the sole aim of attracting attention and outbidding one another. He saw that in this general movement those who thrust themselves most forward and shouted the loudest were men who had failed and were smarting under a sense of injury – generals without armies, ministers not in the ministry, journalists not on any paper, party leaders without followers. He saw that there was a great deal in it that was frivolous and absurd. But he saw and recognized an unmistakable growing enthusiasm, uniting all classes, with which it was impossible not to sympathize. The massacre of men who were fellow Christians, and of the same Slavonic race, excited sympathy for the sufferers and indignation against the oppressors. And the heroism of the Servians and Montenegrins struggling for a great cause begot in the whole people a longing to help their brothers not in word but in deed.

    But in this there was another aspect that rejoiced Sergey Ivanovitch. That was the manifestation of public opinion. The public had definitely expressed its desire. The soul of the people had, as Sergey Ivanovitch said, found expression. And the more he worked in this cause, the more incontestable it seemed to him that it was a cause destined to assume vast dimensions, to create an epoch. (8.19.21-23)

    A Pan-Slavic movement has become popular in Russia. However, many of the people involved are part of the movement to distract themselves from their own personal failures, rather than out of genuine interest. For more on the "Slavic Question," check out our detailed discussion in Levin's "Character Analysis."

  • Compassion and Forgiveness

    "Well, what now?" he asked disconsolately.

    "Go to her, sir; own your fault again. Maybe God will aid you. She is suffering so, it's sad to see her; and besides, everything in the house is topsy-turvy. You must have pity, sir, on the children. Beg her forgiveness, sir. There's no help for it! One must take the consequences..." (1.2.30-31)

    The children's nurse urges Oblonsky to throw himself at his wife's mercy for the sake of the children. Oblonsky eventually agrees, which provides and interesting contrast to Anna's later behavior – she does not save her marriage for the sake of her son.

    "But if it is repeated?"

    "It cannot be, as I understand it..."

    "Yes, but could you forgive it?"

    "I don't know, I can't judge.... Yes, I can," said Anna, thinking a moment; and grasping the position in her thought and weighing it in her inner balance, she added: "Yes, I can, I can, I can. Yes, I could forgive it. I could not be the same, no; but I could forgive it, and forgive it as though it had never been, never been at all..."

    "Oh, of course," Dolly interposed quickly, as though saying what she had more than once thought, "else it would not be forgiveness. If one forgives, it must be completely, completely. Come, let us go; I'll take you to your room," she said, getting up, and on the way she embraced Anna. "My dear, how glad I am you came. It has made things better, ever so much better." (1.19.50)

    Anna argues that she could forgive repeated infidelity, and would forgive it as though it never happened. Dolly replies that that's the only kind of forgiveness there is. But do you believe Anna? Maybe she could forgive Karenin if he were unfaithful to her, since she doesn't love him anyway. But could she forgive Vronsky if he cheated on her? After all, in the last parts of the novel, Anna is consumed with jealousy over Vronsky. What do you think?

    "My God! Forgive me!" she said, sobbing, pressing his hands to her bosom.

    She felt so sinful, so guilty, that nothing was left her but to humiliate herself and beg forgiveness; and as now there was no one in her life but him, to him she addressed her prayer for forgiveness. Looking at him, she had a physical sense of her humiliation, and she could say nothing more. (2.11.4-5)

    After she sleeps with Vronsky, Anna begs God for forgiveness, and then, feeling that there's no one in her life but Vronsky, addresses her plea for forgiveness to him. Why doesn't Anna ask Karenin for forgiveness? Why Vronsky instead?

    [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?"

    "Not you it was performed that noble act of forgiveness, at which I was moved to ecstasy, and everyone else too, but He, working within your heart," said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, raising her eyes rapturously, "and so you cannot be ashamed of your act." (5.22.13)

    Countess Lydia describes religion in overblown ways, but her actions do not match her rhetoric.

    It is true that the erroneousness and shallowness of this conception of his faith was dimly perceptible to Alexey Alexandrovitch, and he knew that when, without the slightest idea that his forgiveness was the action of a higher power, he had surrendered directly to the feeling of forgiveness, he had felt more happiness than now when he was thinking every instant that Christ was in his heart, and that in signing official papers he was doing His will. But for Alexey Alexandrovitch it was a necessity to think in that way; it was such a necessity for him in his humiliation to have some elevated standpoint, however imaginary, from which, looked down upon by all, he could look down on others, that he clung, as to his one salvation, to his delusion of salvation. (5.22.26)

    Although Karenin knows that his spontaneous forgiveness was more powerful than Countess Lydia's brand of religion, he embraces her approach anyway because he needs something to which he can cling. Head to Karenin's "Character Analysis" to learn more about his adoption of Countess Lydia's religious approach.

    He asked for supper, and began telling her about the races; but in his tone, in his eyes, which became more and more cold, she saw that he did not forgive her for her victory, that the feeling of obstinacy with which she had been struggling had asserted itself again in him. He was colder to her than before, as though he were regretting his surrender. And she, remembering the words that had given her the victory, "how I feel on the brink of calamity, how afraid I am of myself," saw that this weapon was a dangerous one, and that it could not be used a second time. And she felt that beside the love that bound them together there had grown up between them some evil spirit of strife, which she could not exorcise from his, and still less from her own heart. (7.12.20)

    Anna and Vronsky's relationship becomes increasingly embittered – there's a distinct lack of forgiveness in both of their hearts. This is in contrast to other relationships that we see, such as Dolly's forgiveness of Oblonsky, and Kitty and Levin's compassion for one another.

  • Gender

    She, his Dolly, forever fussing and worrying over household details, and limited in her ideas, as he considered, was sitting perfectly still with the letter in her hand, looking at him with an expression of horror, despair, and indignation. (1.1.9)

    Oblonsky views his wife as constantly engaged in mysterious female occupations; when there is a problem he finds her sitting absolutely still.

    Stepan Arkadyevitch was a truthful man in his relations with himself. He was incapable of deceiving himself and persuading himself that he repented of his conduct. He could not at this date repent of the fact that he, a handsome, susceptible man of thirty-four, was not in love with his wife, the mother of five living and two dead children, and only a year younger than himself. All he repented of was that he had not succeeded better in hiding it from his wife. But he felt all the difficulty of his position and was sorry for his wife, his children, and himself. Possibly he might have managed to conceal his sins better from his wife if he had anticipated that the knowledge of them would have had such an effect on her. He had never clearly thought out the subject, but he had vaguely conceived that his wife must long ago have suspected him of being unfaithful to her, and shut her eyes to the fact. He had even supposed that she, a worn-out woman no longer young or good-looking, and in no way remarkable or interesting, merely a good mother, ought from a sense of fairness to take an indulgent view. It had turned out quite the other way. (1.2.1)

    Not only is Oblonsky unrepentant regarding his infidelity, but he also thought that Dolly would condone it because he lets her manage the household affairs. The fact that Dolly is no longer attractive to Oblonsky serves another justification for his infidelity. He finds it difficult to believe that a man in his position would not commit adultery.

    Darya Alexandrovna meanwhile having pacified the child, and knowing from the sound of the carriage that he had gone off, went back again to her bedroom. It was her solitary refuge from the household cares which crowded upon her directly she went out from it. Even now, in the short time she had been in the nursery, the English governess and Matrona Philimonovna had succeeded in putting several questions to her, which did not admit of delay, and which only she could answer: "What were the children to put on for their walk? Should they have any milk? Should not a new cook be sent for?" (1.4.40)

    Dolly carries sole responsibility for the running of the Oblonsky household. Tolstoy consider the home to be a woman's domain, and Dolly is a "good" woman because she attends to her family. Check out Dolly's "Character Analysis" for more on this topic.

    In those days Levin used often to be in the Shcherbatskys' house, and he was in love with the Shcherbatsky household. Strange as it may appear, it was with the household, the family, that Konstantin Levin was in love, especially with the feminine half of the household. Levin did not remember his own mother, and his only sister was older than he was, so that it was in the Shcherbatskys' house that he saw for the first time that inner life of an old, noble, cultivated, and honorable family of which he had been deprived by the death of his father and mother. All the members of that family, especially the feminine half, were pictured by him, as it were, wrapped about with a mysterious poetical veil, and he not only perceived no defects whatever in them, but under the poetical veil that shrouded them he assumed the existence of the loftiest sentiments and every possible perfection. Why it was the three young ladies had one day to speak French, and the next English; why it was that at certain hours they played by turns on the piano, the sounds of which were audible in their brother's room above, where the students used to work; why they were visited by those professors of French literature, of music, of drawing, of dancing; why at certain hours all the three young ladies, with Mademoiselle Linon, drove in the coach to the Tversky boulevard, dressed in their satin cloaks, Dolly in a long one, Natalia in a half-long one, and Kitty in one so short that her shapely legs in tightly-drawn red stockings were visible to all beholders; why it was they had to walk about the Tversky boulevard escorted by a footman with a gold cockade in his hat–all this and much more that was done in their mysterious world he did not understand, but he was sure that everything that was done there was very good, and he was in love precisely with the mystery of the proceedings. (1.6.2)

    Women are mysterious, heavenly creatures for Levin. Beyond this idealization, females are essential components to his vision of a proper home. He loves Kitty in part because she comes from his idea of the perfect family. For more on Levin's ideas about women and family, check out his "Character Analysis."

    Bowing to right and left to the people he met, and here as everywhere joyously greeting acquaintances, he went up to the sideboard for a preliminary appetizer of fish and vodka, and said to the painted Frenchwoman decked in ribbons, lace, and ringlets, behind the counter, something so amusing that even that Frenchwoman was moved to genuine laughter. Levin for his part refrained from taking any vodka simply because he felt such a loathing of that Frenchwoman, all made up, it seemed, of false hair, poudre de riz, and vinaigre de toilette. He made haste to move away from her, as from a dirty place. His whole soul was filled with memories of Kitty, and there was a smile of triumph and happiness shining in his eyes. (1.10.1)

    For Levin, it seems, women are either pure (like Kitty) or completely loathsome, like the French women in this scene. Is he putting Kitty on too high a pedestal? And maybe judging these French women too severely?

    On the drive home, as Darya [Dolly] Alexandrovna, with all her children round her, their heads still wet from their bath, and a kerchief tied over her own head, was getting near the house, the coachman said, "There's some gentleman coming: the master of Pokrovskoe, I do believe."

    Darya Alexandrovna peeped out in front, and was delighted when she recognized in the gray hat and gray coat the familiar figure of Levin walking to meet them. She was glad to see him at any time, but at this moment she was specially glad he should see her in all her glory. No one was better able to appreciate her grandeur than Levin.

    Seeing her, he found himself face to face with one of the pictures of his daydream of family life. (3.9.1-3)

    Dolly embodies an idealized mother, and particularly so in this moment. Levin longs for this kind of woman to be part of his life and help him build a family. For more on Dolly as a mother, check out her "Character Analysis." You can also visit Anna's "Character Analysis" to learn more about Tolstoy's views on women as mothers.

    "No; if so, I should have felt a little, apart from my feeling" (he could not say love before them) "and happiness, a certain regret at losing my freedom.... On the contrary, I am glad at the very loss of my freedom."

    "Awful! It's a hopeless case!" said Katavasov. "Well, let's drink to his recovery, or wish that a hundredth part of his dreams may be realized – and that would be happiness such as never has been seen on earth!"

    […]

    When he was left alone, and recalled the conversation of these bachelor friends, Levin asked himself: had he in his heart that regret for his freedom of which they had spoken? He smiled at the question. "Freedom! What is freedom for? Happiness is only in loving and wishing her wishes, thinking her thoughts, that is to say, not freedom at all–that's happiness!" (5.2.25-29)

    During his "bachelor party," Levin's friends warn him of a loss of masculine freedom that comes with marriage, but Levin is so happy to be getting married that he disregards their warnings. He's eager to start a family, thinking that will cure all of his angst. For more on Levin and family, check out his "Character Analysis."

    Levin thought of the text, not because he considered himself "wise and prudent." He did not so consider himself, but he could not help knowing that he had more intellect than his wife and Agafea Mihalovna, and he could not help knowing that when he thought of death, he thought with all the force of his intellect. He knew too that the brains of many great men, whose thoughts he had read, had brooded over death and yet knew not a hundredth part of what his wife and Agafea Mihalovna knew about it. Different as those two women were, Agafea Mihalovna and Katya, as his brother Nikolay had called her, and as Levin particularly liked to call her now, they were quite alike in this. Both knew, without a shade of doubt, what sort of thing life was and what was death, and though neither of them could have answered, and would even not have understood the questions that presented themselves to Levin, both had no doubt of the significance of this event, and were precisely alike in their way of looking at it, which they shared with millions of people. The proof that they knew for a certainty the nature of death lay in the fact that they knew without a second of hesitation how to deal with the dying, and were not frightened of them. Levin and other men like him, though they could have said a great deal about death, obviously did not know this since they were afraid of death, and were absolutely at a loss what to do when people were dying. If Levin had been alone now with his brother Nikolay, he would have looked at him with terror, and with still greater terror waited, and would not have known what else to do. (5.19.2)

    Levin is astonished that women, whom he considers to be less intelligent, are infinitely better at coping with death and dying. Tolstoy's portrayals of women, and particularly Kitty, seem to indicate that women naturally are care takers, and better at dealing with death, sickness, and children, too. For more on this topic, check out Kitty's "Character Analysis."

    Kitty felt a peculiar pleasure in being able now to talk to her mother on equal terms about those questions of such paramount interest in a woman's life. (6.2.30)

    During this scene Kitty is asking her mom about how her dad proposed marriage. Now that Kitty is a married woman, she can speak with her mother on more equal footing, and feels as though she has reached another milestone in her womanhood.

  • Family

    All happy families are alike, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. (1.1.1)

    Tolstoy asserts that there is a specific kind of happiness that families can achieve. The infinite variations from that happiness result in a special kind of unhappiness. It's almost as if he thinks there is a single recipe for happy families.

    In those days Levin used often to be in the Shcherbatskys' house, and he was in love with the Shcherbatsky household. Strange as it may appear, it was with the household, the family, that Konstantin Levin was in love, especially with the feminine half of the household. Levin did not remember his own mother, and his only sister was older than he was, so that it was in the Shcherbatskys' house that he saw for the first time that inner life of an old, noble, cultivated, and honorable family of which he had been deprived by the death of his father and mother. All the members of that family, especially the feminine half, were pictured by him, as it were, wrapped about with a mysterious poetical veil, and he not only perceived no defects whatever in them, but under the poetical veil that shrouded them he assumed the existence of the loftiest sentiments and every possible perfection. Why it was the three young ladies had one day to speak French, and the next English; why it was that at certain hours they played by turns on the piano, the sounds of which were audible in their brother's room above, where the students used to work; why they were visited by those professors of French literature, of music, of drawing, of dancing; why at certain hours all the three young ladies, with Mademoiselle Linon, drove in the coach to the Tversky boulevard, dressed in their satin cloaks, Dolly in a long one, Natalia in a half-long one, and Kitty in one so short that her shapely legs in tightly-drawn red stockings were visible to all beholders; why it was they had to walk about the Tversky boulevard escorted by a footman with a gold cockade in his hat – all this and much more that was done in their mysterious world he did not understand, but he was sure that everything that was done there was very good, and he was in love precisely with the mystery of the proceedings. (1.6.2)

    Levin falls in love with the Shcherbatsky family, in part because he never had a family. As an outsider, Levin seems to think that family is the key to happiness. And it's clear that Levin also sees women as the essential component to a happy family, so it's no surprise that he wants desperately to marry – and specifically to marry Kitty Shcherbatsky.

    Marriage had never presented itself to him as a possibility. He not only disliked family life, but a family, and especially a husband was, in accordance with the views general in the bachelor world in which he lived, conceived as something alien, repellant, and, above all, ridiculous. (1.16.5)

    Vronsky looks down on normal family life, which maybe explains why he opts for a love affair with a married woman. For a detailed discussion of Vronsky and family, check out his "Character Analysis."

    After tea he went out into the hall to order his horses to be put in, and, when he came back, he found Darya Alexandrovna greatly disturbed, with a troubled face, and tears in her eyes. While Levin had been outside, an incident had occurred which had utterly shattered all the happiness she had been feeling that day, and her pride in her children. Grisha and Tanya had been fighting over a ball. Darya Alexandrovna, hearing a scream in the nursery, ran in and saw a terrible sight. Tanya was pulling Grisha's hair, while he, with a face hideous with rage, was beating her with his fists wherever he could get at her. Something snapped in Darya Alexandrovna's heart when she saw this. It was as if darkness had swooped down upon her life; she felt that these children of hers, that she was so proud of, were not merely most ordinary, but positively bad, ill-bred children, with coarse, brutal propensities – wicked children.

    She could not talk or think of anything else, and she could not speak to Levin of her misery.

    Levin saw she was unhappy and tried to comfort her, saying that it showed nothing bad, that all children fight; but, even as he said it, he was thinking in his heart: "No, I won't be artificial and talk French with my children; but my children won't be like that. All one has to do is not spoil children, not to distort their nature, and they'll be delightful. No, my children won't be like that." (3.10.49-51)

    Motherhood for Dolly has its ups and downs. Since her life is so focused on her family, she's horrified when her children misbehave. Levin, for his part, is convinced that his family will certainly not behave in that way. He seems to be under the impression that raising children is easy.

    Levin had been married three months. He was happy, but not at all in the way he had expected to be. At every step he found his former dreams disappointed, and new, unexpected surprises of happiness. He was happy; but on entering upon family life he saw at every step that it was utterly different from what he had imagined. At every step he experienced what a man would experience who, after admiring the smooth, happy course of a little boat on a lake, should get himself into that little boat. He saw that it was not all sitting still, floating smoothly; that one had to think too, not for an instant to forget where one was floating; and that there was water under one, and that one must row; and that his unaccustomed hands would be sore; and that it was only to look at it that was easy; but that doing it, though very delightful, was very difficult. (5.14.1)

    Levin finally experiences real family life and finds out that it's nothing like his fantasy. Marriage in itself is not the solution to his existential angst.

  • Isolation

    She did not look out again. The sound of the carriage-springs was no longer audible, the bells could scarcely be heard. The barking of dogs showed the carriage had reached the village, and all that was left was the empty fields all round, the village in front, and he himself isolated and apart from it all, wandering lonely along the deserted highroad. (3.12.15)

    After seeing Kitty, Levin feels alone and isolated from the world.

    "What can I write?" she thought. "What can I decide upon alone? What do I know? What do I want? What is there I care for?" Again she felt that her soul was beginning to be split in two. She was terrified again at this feeling, and clutched at the first pretext for doing something which might divert her thoughts from herself. "I ought to see Alexey" (so she called Vronsky in her thoughts); "no one but he can tell me what I ought to do. I'll go to Betsy's, perhaps I shall see him there," she said to herself, completely forgetting that when she had told him the day before that she was not going to Princess Tverskaya's, he had said that in that case he should not go either. (3.16.15)

    Anna has a hard time making decisions for herself. Maybe this is part of the reason why, later in the novel, Anna has such a difficult time being isolated from society, including Betsy.

    Anna pondered for an instant in uncertainty. This shrewd man's flattering words, the naïve, childlike affection shown her by Liza Merkalova, and all the social atmosphere she was used to, – it was all so easy, and what was in store for her was so difficult, that she was for a minute in uncertainty whether to remain, whether to put off a little longer the painful moment of explanation. But remembering what was in store for her alone at home, if she did not come to some decision, remembering that gesture – terrible even in memory – when she had clutched her hair in both hands – she said good-bye and went away. (3.18.34)

    Anna exists comfortably among the fashionable, but the memory of her madness when alone goads her into leaving for her meeting with Vronsky.

    The attachment he felt to Anna precluded in his heart every need of intimate relations with others. And now among all his acquaintances he had not one friend. He had plenty of so-called connections, but no friendships. Alexey Alexandrovitch had plenty of people whom he could invite to dinner, to whose sympathy he could appeal in any public affair he was concerned about, whose interest he could reckon upon for anyone he wished to help, with whom he could candidly discuss other people's business and affairs of state. But his relations with these people were confined to one clearly defined channel, and had a certain routine from which it was impossible to depart. There was one man, a comrade of his at the university, with whom he had made friends later, and with whom he could have spoken of a personal sorrow; but this friend had a post in the Department of Education in a remote part of Russia. Of the people in Petersburg the most intimate and most possible were his chief secretary and his doctor. (5.21.10)

    Without Anna, Karenin is truly alone. Here he realizes that he has no emotional connections with people. By the end of the novel, though, he does have some people whom he loves: his son and Anna's daughter, Annie.

    As intensely as Anna had longed to see her son, and long as she had been thinking of it and preparing herself for it, she had not in the least expected that seeing him would affect her so deeply. On getting back to her lonely rooms in the hotel she could not for a long while understand why she was there. "Yes, it's all over, and I am again alone," she said to herself, and without taking off her hat she sat down in a low chair by the hearth. Fixing her eyes on a bronze clock standing on a table between the windows, she tried to think. (5.31.1)

    In the hours following her reunion with her son Seryozha, Anna feels more alone than ever. Before meeting Vronsky, Seryozha was the most important person in Anna's life, and now she is separated from him. For more on Anna's relationship with Seryozha, check out her "Character Analysis."

    Vronsky could not understand exactly what had passed between the Kartasovs and Anna, but he saw that something humiliating for Anna had happened. He knew this both from what he had seen, and most of all from the face of Anna, who, he could see, was taxing every nerve to carry through the part she had taken up. And in maintaining this attitude of external composure she was completely successful. Anyone who did not know her and her circle, who had not heard all the utterances of the women expressive of commiseration, indignation, and amazement, that she should show herself in society, and show herself so conspicuously with her lace and her beauty, would have admired the serenity and loveliness of this woman without a suspicion that she was undergoing the sensations of a man in the stocks. (5.33.33)

    Despite outward composure, Anna is alone and defenseless in the face of Moscow's grandest society. As a result of her public affair, she's a complete outcast. The society women in particular are "amazed" and "indignant" that Anna is showing herself in public. Anna is now isolated from everyone but Vronsky.

    Levin did not care to eat, and he was not smoking; he did not want to join his own friends, that is Sergey Ivanovitch, Stepan Arkadyevitch, Sviazhsky and the rest, because Vronsky in his equerry's uniform was standing with them in eager conversation. Levin had seen him already at the meeting on the previous day, and he had studiously avoided him, not caring to greet him. He went to the window and sat down, scanning the groups, and listening to what was being said around him. He felt depressed, especially because everyone else was, as he saw, eager, anxious, and interested, and he alone, with an old, toothless little man with mumbling lips wearing a naval uniform, sitting beside him, had no interest in it and nothing to do. (6.29.2)

    Levin is practically the only one who doesn't have a strong interest in how the elections are proceeding; this is yet another way he sets himself apart from the social norm.

    "What does he keep reading philosophy of some sort for all this year?" she wondered. "If it's all written in those books, he can understand them. If it's all wrong, why does he read them? He says himself that he would like to believe. Then why is it he doesn't believe? Surely from his thinking so much? And he thinks so much from being solitary. He's always alone, alone. He can't talk about it all to us. I fancy he'll be glad of these visitors, especially Katavasov. He likes discussions with them," she thought, and passed instantly to the consideration of where it would be more convenient to put Katavasov, to sleep alone or to share Sergey Ivanovitch's room. (8.7.6)

    Kitty instinctively understands that her husband's preoccupation with philosophy is not helping resolve his existential dilemma. She fears that he's not learning anything by isolating himself from other people.

    "No, I'd better not speak of it," he thought, when she had gone in before him. "It is a secret for me alone, of vital importance for me, and not to be put into words. (8.19.13)

    When Levin finally achieves spiritual peace, he consciously makes the decision to keep his happiness to himself and not to share it with his wife. Check out Levin's "Character Analysis" for more on Levin's personal epiphany.

  • Life, Creation, and Existence

    There was no solution, but that universal solution which life gives to all questions, even the most complex and insoluble. That answer is: one must live in the needs of the day – that is, forget oneself. To forget himself in sleep was impossible now, at least till nighttime; he could not go back now to the music sung by the decanter-women; so he must forget himself in the dream of daily life. (1.2.3)

    Tolstoy returns to this idea of "living the needs of the day" with Levin in Part 8. Here, however, Oblonsky seeks an escape from thinking about the seeming impossibility of remedying his shameful actions.

    He could not be mistaken. There were no other eyes like those in the world. There was only one creature in the world that could concentrate for him all the brightness and meaning of life. It was she. It was Kitty. He understood that she was driving to Ergushovo from the railway station. And everything that had been stirring Levin during that sleepless night, all the resolutions he had made, all vanished at once. He recalled with horror his dreams of marrying a peasant girl. There only, in the carriage that had crossed over to the other side of the road, and was rapidly disappearing, there only could he find the solution of the riddle of his life, which had weighed so agonizingly upon him of late. (3.12.14)

    Levin believes that marriage to Kitty will reveal the answers to life that he so desperately seeks. However, when he finally gets married and has a son, he realizes that simply starting a family isn't the answer. His final epiphany will include Kitty, but it is not limited to her.

    "Don't you know that you're all my life to me? But I know no peace, and I can't give it to you; all myself – and love...yes. I can't think of you and myself apart. You and I are one to me. And I see no chance before us of peace for me or for you. I see a chance of despair, of wretchedness...or I see a chance of bliss, what bliss!... Can it be there's no chance of it?" he murmured with his lips; but she heard. (2.7.52)

    Vronsky argues that his entire life has become bound to Anna and attempting to win her love.

    Alexey Alexandrovitch was not jealous. Jealousy according to his notions was an insult to one's wife, and one ought to have confidence in one's wife. Why one ought to have confidence–that is to say, complete conviction that his young wife would always love him–he did not ask himself. But he had no experience of lack of confidence, because he had confidence in her, and told himself that he ought to have it. Now, though his conviction that jealousy was a shameful feeling and that one ought to feel confidence, had not broken down, he felt that he was standing face to face with something illogical and irrational, and did not know what was to be done. Alexey Alexandrovitch was standing face to face with life, with the possibility of his wife's loving someone other than himself, and this seemed to him very irrational and incomprehensible because it was life itself. All his life Alexey Alexandrovitch had lived and worked in official spheres, having to do with the reflection of life. And every time he had stumbled against life itself he had shrunk away from it. Now he experienced a feeling akin to that of a man who, while calmly crossing a precipice by a bridge, should suddenly discover that the bridge is broken, and that there is a chasm below. That chasm was life itself, the bridge that artificial life in which Alexey Alexandrovitch had lived. For the first time the question presented itself to him of the possibility of his wife's loving someone else, and he was horrified at it. (2.8.4)

    Karenin's shock at the possibility of his wife's betrayal reflects his emotional immaturity. He has never engaged with life or with passion, only with bureaucratic procedure. Further, he has never imagined that his wife is a human being, with her own internal thoughts, desires, and struggles.

    From that time a new life began for Alexey Alexandrovitch and for his wife. Nothing special happened. Anna went out into society, as she had always done, was particularly often at Princess Betsy's, and met Vronsky everywhere. Alexey Alexandrovitch saw this, but could do nothing. All his efforts to draw her into open discussion she confronted with a barrier which he could not penetrate, made up of a sort of amused perplexity. Outwardly everything was the same, but their inner relations were completely changed. Alexey Alexandrovitch, a man of great power in the world of politics, felt himself helpless in this. Like an ox with head bent, submissively he awaited the blow which he felt was lifted over him. Every time he began to think about it, he felt that he must try once more, that by kindness, tenderness, and persuasion there was still hope of saving her, of bringing her back to herself, and every day he made ready to talk to her. But every time he began talking to her, he felt that the spirit of evil and deceit, which had taken possession of her, had possession of him too, and he talked to her in a tone quite unlike that in which he had meant to talk. Involuntarily he talked to her in his habitual tone of jeering at anyone who should say what he was saying. And in that tone it was impossible to say what needed to be said to her. (2.10.1)

    Although nothing outwardly changed, Anna and Karenin's internal relations are completely altered. Tolstoy emphasizes the separation between inner and outer life.

    "All is over," she said; "I have nothing but you. Remember that."

    "I can never forget what is my whole life. For one instant of this happiness..." (2.11.7-8)

    Again, Vronsky argues that Anna is his entire life. His passionate declaration is that he is willing to give up his whole life for one instant of happiness. Whether or not this is possible remains to be seen.

    Now nothing mattered: going or not going to Vozdvizhenskoe, getting or not getting a divorce from her husband – all that did not matter. The one thing that mattered was punishing him. When she poured herself out her usual dose of opium, and thought that she had only to drink off the whole bottle to die, it seemed to her so simple and easy, that she began musing with enjoyment on how he would suffer, and repent and love her memory when it would be too late. She lay in bed with open eyes, by the light of a single burned-down candle, gazing at the carved cornice of the ceiling and at the shadow of the screen that covered part of it, while she vividly pictured to herself how he would feel when she would be no more, when she would be only a memory to him. "How could I say such cruel things to her?" he would say. "How could I go out of the room without saying anything to her? But now she is no more. She has gone away from us forever. She is...." Suddenly the shadow of the screen wavered, pounced on the whole cornice, the whole ceiling; other shadows from the other side swooped to meet it, for an instant the shadows flitted back, but then with fresh swiftness they darted forward, wavered, commingled, and all was darkness. "Death!" she thought. And such horror came upon her that for a long while she could not realize where she was, and for a long while her trembling hands could not find the matches and light another candle, instead of the one that had burned down and gone out. "No, anything – only to live! Why, I love him! Why, he loves me! This has been before and will pass," she said, feeling that tears of joy at the return to life were trickling down her cheeks. And to escape from her panic she went hurriedly to his room. (7.26.9)

    At this point, Anna no longer cares about anything other than punishing Vronsky and making him suffer for love of her. She is constantly struggling with thoughts of death.

  • Jealousy

    On that day of the week and at that time of day people of one set, all acquainted with one another, used to meet on the ice. There were crack skaters there, showing off their skill, and learners clinging to chairs with timid, awkward movements, boys, and elderly people skating with hygienic motives. They seemed to Levin an elect band of blissful beings because they were here, near her. All the skaters, it seemed, with perfect self-possession, skated towards her, skated by her, even spoke to her, and were happy, quite apart from her, enjoying the capital ice and the fine weather. (1.9.5)

    Such is the depth of Levin's infatuation that he is jealous of the people who are skating on the ice at the same time as Kitty.

    Alexey Alexandrovitch was not jealous. Jealousy according to his notions was an insult to one's wife, and one ought to have confidence in one's wife. Why one ought to have confidence – that is to say, complete conviction that his young wife would always love him – he did not ask himself. But he had no experience of lack of confidence, because he had confidence in her, and told himself that he ought to have it. Now, though his conviction that jealousy was a shameful feeling and that one ought to feel confidence, had not broken down, he felt that he was standing face to face with something illogical and irrational, and did not know what was to be done. Alexey Alexandrovitch was standing face to face with life, with the possibility of his wife's loving someone other than himself, and this seemed to him very irrational and incomprehensible because it was life itself. (2.8.4)

    It does not occur to Karenin to be jealous because he cannot stand the idea of his wife loving another man. Instead, he views his relations with his wife in the coldest, most rational way possible.

    But he could not at once recall what he had been going to say. These fits of jealousy, which of late had been more and more frequent with her, horrified him, and however much he tried to disguise the fact, made him feel cold to her, although he knew the cause of her jealousy was her love for him. (4.3.17)

    Anna's constant jealousy begins to severely alienate Vronsky.

    [Anna:] "I'm not defending him, it's nothing to me; but I imagine, if you had not cared for those pleasures yourself, you might have got out of them. But if it affords you satisfaction to gaze at Thérèse in the attire of Eve..."

    "Again, the devil again," Vronsky said, taking the hand she had laid on the table and kissing it.

    "Yes; but I can't help it. You don't know what I have suffered waiting for you. I believe I'm not jealous. I'm not jealous: I believe you when you're here; but when you're away somewhere leading your life, so incomprehensible to me..." (4.3.24-26)

    Anna is jealous, and doing a bad job of hiding it, even though she knows her jealousy is unreasonable and unfounded. However, having been isolated from the rest of society, she fears losing Vronsky as well.

    "Why mine?" said Anna. "After yours I don't want another portrait. Better have one of Annie" (so she called her baby girl). "Here she is," she added, looking out of the window at the handsome Italian nurse, who was carrying the child out into the garden, and immediately glancing unnoticed at Vronsky. The handsome nurse, from whom Vronsky was painting a head for his picture, was the one hidden grief in Anna's life. He painted with her as his model, admired her beauty and mediaevalism, and Anna dared not confess to herself that she was afraid of becoming jealous of this nurse, and was for that reason particularly gracious and condescending both to her and her little son. (5.9.12)

    Anna's jealousy is cropping up more and more often. Here she's worried that Vronsky is interested in Annie's nurse.

    His jealousy had in these few moments, especially at the flush that had overspread her cheeks while she was talking to Veslovsky, gone far indeed. Now as he heard her words, he construed them in his own fashion. Strange as it was to him afterwards to recall it, it seemed to him at the moment clear that in asking whether he was going shooting, all she cared to know was whether he would give that pleasure to Vassenka Veslovsky, with whom, as he fancied, she was in love […]

    […] Levin's jealousy went further still. Already he saw himself a deceived husband, looked upon by his wife and her lover as simply necessary to provide them with the conveniences and pleasures of life.... But in spite of that he made polite and hospitable inquiries of Vassenka about his shooting, his gun, and his boots, and agreed to go shooting next day. (6.7.28, 36)

    Levin is so easily jealous of his wife that his imagination runs rampant when Veslovsky indulges in some harmless conversation. Why is it that Levin believes that Kitty is in love with Veslovsky?

    But without looking in the glass, she thought that even now it was not too late; and she thought of Sergey Ivanovitch, who was always particularly attentive to her, of Stiva's good-hearted friend, Turovtsin, who had helped her nurse her children through the scarlatina, and was in love with her. And there was someone else, a quite young man, who – her husband had told her it as a joke – thought her more beautiful than either of her sisters. And the most passionate and impossible romances rose before Darya Alexandrovna's imagination. "Anna did quite right, and certainly I shall never reproach her for it. She is happy, she makes another person happy, and she's not broken down as I am, but most likely just as she always was, bright, clever, open to every impression," thought Darya Alexandrovna, – and a sly smile curved her lips, for, as she pondered on Anna's love affair, Darya Alexandrovna constructed on parallel lines an almost identical love affair for herself, with an imaginary composite figure, the ideal man who was in love with her. She, like Anna, confessed the whole affair to her husband. And the amazement and perplexity of Stepan Arkadyevitch at this avowal made her smile. (6.16.18)

    Dolly envies Anna's freedom and vitality in choosing to leave her husband, and she daydreams about having an affair and breaking out of the rut of her life. Later, after witnessing Anna's life close-up, she decides that she prefers her own life to Anna's. For more on this, check out Dolly's "Character Analysis."

    "My love keeps growing more passionate and egoistic, while his is waning and waning, and that's why we're drifting apart." She went on musing. "And there's no help for it. He is everything for me, and I want him more and more to give himself up to me entirely. And he wants more and more to get away from me. We walked to meet each other up to the time of our love, and then we have been irresistibly drifting in different directions. And there's no altering that. He tells me I'm insanely jealous, and I have told myself that I am insanely jealous; but it's not true. I'm not jealous, but I'm unsatisfied. But..." she opened her lips, and shifted her place in the carriage in the excitement, aroused by the thought that suddenly struck her. "If I could be anything but a mistress, passionately caring for nothing but his caresses; but I can't and I don't care to be anything else. And by that desire I rouse aversion in him, and he rouses fury in me, and it cannot be different. Don't I know that he wouldn't deceive me, that he has no schemes about Princess Sorokina, that he's not in love with Kitty, that he won't desert me! I know all that, but it makes it no better for me. If without loving me, from duty, he'll be good and kind to me, without what I want, that's a thousand times worse than unkindness! That's – hell! And that's just how it is. For a long while now he hasn't loved me. And where love ends, hate begins." (7.30.4)

    Anna knows that her jealousy is irrational, but she can't help it. Such is the nature of her desperate love of Vronsky.

  • Man and the Natural World

    Sergey Ivanovitch Koznishev wanted a rest from mental work, and instead of going abroad as he usually did, he came towards the end of May to stay in the country with his brother. In his judgment the best sort of life was a country life. He had come now to enjoy such a life at his brother's. Konstantin Levin was very glad to have him, especially as he did not expect his brother Nikolay that summer. But in spite of his affection and respect for Sergey Ivanovitch, Konstantin Levin was uncomfortable with his brother in the country. It made him uncomfortable, and it positively annoyed him to see his brother's attitude to the country. To Konstantin Levin the country was the background of life, that is of pleasures, endeavors, labor. To Sergey Ivanovitch the country meant on one hand rest from work, on the other a valuable antidote to the corrupt influences of town, which he took with satisfaction and a sense of its utility. To Konstantin Levin the country was good first because it afforded a field for labor, of the usefulness of which there could be no doubt. To Sergey Ivanovitch the country was particularly good, because there it was possible and fitting to do nothing. (3.1.1)

    Levin and his brother have radically different views on country life. For Levin, the countryside is where life is at its most vital. Koznyshev (or Koznishev) thinks that nothing happens outside of the cities. How is Levin thinking that he can be useful ("of which there could be no doubt") out in his country estate?

    Now in the solitude of the country, she began to be more and more frequently aware of those joys. Often, looking at them, she would make every possible effort to persuade herself that she was mistaken, that she as a mother was partial to her children. All the same, she could not help saying to herself that she had charming children, all six of them in different ways, but a set of children such as is not often to be met with, and she was happy in them, and proud of them. (3.7.8)

    The country brings out Dolly's joy in motherhood; in contrast, the city is associated with her husband's infidelities. The natural world seems to have an almost healing quality, in contrast to the damage of the social life in the cities.

    [Dolly's] children scarcely knew Levin, did not remember when they had last seen him, but did not show that strange feeling of shyness and aversion towards him that children so often feel for shamming adults, for which they are so often painfully punished. Shamming in anything at all can deceive the most intelligent, perceptive person, but the most limited child will recognize it and feel aversion, no matter how artfully it is concealed. Whatever Levin's shortcoming were, there was no hint of sham in him, and therefore the children showed him the same friendliness they found in their mother's face. (3.9.14)

    It seems as though Levin's great moral advantage is that he's truthful. And this truth goes beyond the fact that he doesn't lie. He also doesn't "sham," or pretend to be other than what he is. He acts instinctively according to his nature, and kids, being less damaged by society than adults, respond well to that.

    Over tea Levin learned the whole story of the old man's farming. Ten years ago the old man had rente three hundred and twenty acres from a lady landowner, and last year he had bought them and rented eight hundred more from a local landowner. A small portion of the land, the worst, he rented out, and he himself ploughed some hundred acres with his family and two hired men. […] Despite the old man's complaints, it was clear that he was justifiably proud of his prosperity, proud of his sons, nephew, daughters-in-law, horses, cows, and especially that the whole farm held together. (3.25.15)

    We see here an example of a peasant working according to the best of his nature. By focusing on family values, personal interest, and maintaining the land, this man has been able to fin a prosperous living that he's built up more or less from scratch. Even though we only see this old man once, he seems like one important model of how Russian peasant life should be organized (according to Levin).

    "Yes, I should have said to [the old landowner]: 'You say our farming doesn't work because the muzhiks hate all improvements and that they must be introduced by authority. Now, if farming didn't work at all without these improvements, you'd be right; but it does work, and it works only where the worker acts according to his habits, like that old man half-way here' [...] We've been pushing ahead for a long time in our own way, the European way, without asking ourselves about the properties of the workforce. Let's try to look at the work force not as an ideal workforce but as the Russian muzhik with his instincts, and organize our farming accordingly." (3.28.34)

    Here we get an inkling of the philosophy Levin's going to expand upon later. We're putting this in the "natural world" section because instincts emerge from nature, and because Levin connects peasants (and especially Russian peasants) with closeness to nature. How does Levin seem to imagine the nature of the Russian peasant? What connections is he making between the nature of the peasant and agricultural reforms?

    At the sight of the sick man, [Kitty] felt pity for him. And pity in her woman's soul produced none of the horror and squeamishness it did in her husband, but a need to act, to find out all the details of his condition and help with them. As she did not have the slightest doubt that she had to help him, so she had no doubt that it was possible, and she got down to work at once. Those same details, the mere thought of which horrified her husband, at once attracted her attention. (5.18.2)

    Kitty knows instinctively what to do to help Nicholas, while Levin is paralyzed. How does Tolstoy's portrayal of Kitty here help us to understand his views on the nature of women in general?

    [Levin] did not consider himself wise, but he could not help knowing that he was more intelligent than his wife or Agafya Mikhailovna, and he could not help knowing that when he thought about death, he thought about it with all the forces of his soul. he also knew that many great masculine minds, whose thoughts about it he had read, had pondered death and yet did not know a hundredth part of what his wife and Agafya Mikhailovna knew about it [...] The proof that they knew firmly what death was lay in their knowing, with a moment's doubt, how to act with dying people and not being afraid of them. (5.19.2)

    Levin feels the contrast between his intellectual knowledge of death and Kitty and Miss Agatha's emotional understanding of death. Why does Levin find that women have greater access to the natural world of life and death than he does? Why are certain figures in Anna Karenina – women, peasants, children – more natural than the male noblemen with whom Levin associates?

    Running into the marsh, Laska at once picked up, amidst the familiar smells of roots, marsh grass, rust, and the alien smell of horse dung, the bird smell spread all through the place, that same strong-smelling bird that exited her more than anything else […] She had already begun a circle to find the place when her master's voice suddenly distracted her. "Here, Laska!" he said, pointing in a different direction […] She obeyed him, pretending to search in order to give him pleasure, ran all over the hummocks and then went back to the former place, and immediately sensed them again. (6.12.8)

    Why do we get a scene in this chapter from Levin's dog's perspective? How does Levin's enthusiasm and skill for hunting seem to fit into this portrait of Levin as a natural guy? Can we make any comparisons between Levin's relationship with Laska and Vronsky's fatal episode with Frou-frou, his horse?

  • Religion

    "But [Princess Shcherbatsky's] daughter said nothing in reply; [Kitty] only thought in her heart that one could not speak of excessiveness in matters of Christianity. what excessiveness could thee be in following a teaching that tells you to turn the other cheek when you have been struck, and to give away your shirt when your caftan is taken?" (2.33.8)

    This moment of contemplation on Kitty's part takes place when she is still friends with Madame Stahl. How does her belief that "one could not speak of excessiveness in matters of Christianity" change after she realizes Madame Stahl is kind of a bully? How does Kitty's thoughts about faith change after this episode in the novel?

    "I beg you to hear me out, it's necessary. I must explain my feelings to you, those that have guided me and those that will guide me, so that you will not be mistaken regarding me. You know that I had decided on a divorce and had even started proceedings. I won't conceal from you that, when I started proceeding, I was undecided, I suffered; I confess that I was driven by a desire for revenge on you and on her. When I received her telegram, I came here with the same feelings – I will say more: I wished for her death [...] But I saw her and I forgave. And the happiness of forgiveness revealed my duty to me. I forgave her completely. I want to turn the other cheek. I want to give my shirt when my caftan is taken, and I only pray to God that He not take from me the happiness of forgiveness! [...] That is my position. 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." (4.17.54)

    How does Karenin's forgiveness for Anna work as an example of spiritual epiphany? Spiritual feeling and society seem absolutely opposed for Karenin in this scene. Does this opposition stand more generally throughout the novel?

    The sight of his brother and the proximity of death renewed in Levin's soul the feeling of horror at the inscrutability and, with that, the nearness and inevitability of death, which had seized him on that autumn evening when his brother had come for a visit. The feeling was now stronger than before; he felt even less capable than before of understanding the meaning of death, and its inevitability appeared still more horrible to him; but now, thanks to his wife's nearness, the feeling did not drive him to despair: in spite of death, he felt the necessity to live and to love. he felt that love saved him from despair and that under the threat of despair, this love was becoming still stronger and purer. (5.20.55)

    It seems like Kitty and Levin have an almost spiritual or religious component to their relationship in comforting Levin in the face of his brother's death. How does this moment in the book represent an intellectual crisis for Levin? What is Tolstoy saying about reason versus emotion in the face of the great unknowns of life?

    Countess Lidia Ivanovna kept her promise. She did actually take upon herself the care of the organization and management of Alexey Alexandrovitch's household. But she had not overstated the case when saying that practical affairs were not her strong point. All her arrangements had to be modified because they could not be carried out, and they were modified by Korney, Alexey Alexandrovitch's valet, who, though no one was aware of the fact, now managed Karenin's household, and quietly and discreetly reported to his master while he was dressing all it was necessary for him to know. But Lidia Ivanovna's help was none the less real; she gave Alexey Alexandrovitch moral support in the consciousness of her love and respect for him, and still more, as it was soothing to her to believe, in that she almost turned him to Christianity – that is, from an indifferent and apathetic believer she turned him into an ardent and steadfast adherent of the new interpretation of Christian doctrine, which had been gaining ground of late in Petersburg. It was easy for Alexey Alexandrovitch to believe in this teaching. (5.22.26)

    Countess Lydia gives Karenin love and respect at a time when the rest of society gives him neither. Even though both her domestic help and her brand of Christianity seem to be dubious, Karenin relies on them both.

    "I understand that perfectly," Levin replied. "One cannot put one's heart into a school or generally into institutions of that sort, and that is precisely why I think these philanthropic institutions always produce such meager results." (7.10.35)

    Here, Levin is commenting to Anna on the value (or lack thereof) of charitable schools. We see again Levin's view that good works are only really meaningful if they arise from personal needs or emotional investment in a particular person or family. Do you think this view remains the same once he's had his religious transformation at the end of the book?

    "That is, you mean to say that sin prevents him?" said Lydia Ivanovna. "But that is a false view. There is no sin for believers; sin is already redeemed" (7.21.46)

    Countess Lydia believes that, once a person has accepted God as her savior, she cannot do anything wrong. This holds true because she believes that the moment a person accepts God, all of her sins have already been forgiven. What kinds of moral problems does Tolstoy find with this view?

    And in that same instant she was horrified at what she was doing. "Where am I? What am I doing? Why?" She wanted to rise, to throw herself back, but something huge and implacable pushed at her head and dragged over her. "Lord, forgive me for everything!" she said, feeling the impossibility of any struggle. A little muzhik, muttering to himself, was working over some iron. And the candle by the light of which she had been reading that book filled with anxieties, deceptions, grief and evil, flared up brighter than ever, lit up for her all that had once been in darkness, sputtered, grew dim, and went out for ever." (7.31.21)

    Anna's final call to God to forgive her reminds us of her earlier pleas to Karenin, when she thinks she's going to die in childbirth. How do the two themes of forgiveness and religion mix and match each other throughout the novel?

    "Fyodor says that Kirillov the innkeeper lives for his belly. That is clear and reasonable. None of us, as reasonable beings, can live otherwise than for our belly. And suddenly that same Fyodor says it's bad to live for the belly and that one should live for the truth, for God, and I understand him from a hint! And I (Levin) and millions of people who lived ages ago and are living now, muzhiks, the poor in spirit, and the wise men who have thought and written about it, saying the same thing in their vague language – we're all agreed on this one thing: what we should live for and what is good. I and all people have only one firm, unquestionable and clear knowledge, and this knowledge cannot be explained by reason – it is outside it, and has no causes, and can have no consequences." (8.12.6)

    This is the moment of Levin's great, novel-ending religious epiphany. What is the knowledge that is clear, unquestionable, but also outside of reason? How does this "knowledge" relate to doing what is good? Where does it originate? Is this knowledge the soul, is it human nature, is it God?

    "Yes, the one obvious, unquestionable manifestation of the Deity is the laws of good disclosed to the world by revelation, which I feel in myself, and by acknowledging which I do not so much unite myself as I am united, whether I will or no, with others in one community of believers called the Church. Well, but the Jews, the Mohammedans, the Confucians, the Buddhists – what are they? […] Can these hundreds of millions of people be deprived of the highest good, without which life has no meaning? […] I'm asking about the relation to the Deity of all the various faiths of mankind. I'm asking about the general manifestation of God to the whole world with all these nebulae. What am I doing? To me personally, to my heart, unquestionable knowledge is revealed, inconceivable to reason, and I stubbornly want to express this knowledge by means of reason and words." (8.19.5)

    This passage seems to suggest the possibility that other faiths can also find a revelation of truth within their own belief structures. In developing his own spiritual path, how does Levin deal with organized religion? And with other religions? He seems to accept a limit on the amount that he can know, as a human being, about the deity.

  • Language and Communication

    But as she was dancing the last quadrille with one of the tiresome young men whom she could not refuse, she chanced to be vis-à-vis with Vronsky and Anna. She had not been near Anna again since the beginning of the evening, and now again she saw her suddenly quite new and surprising. She saw in her the signs of that excitement of success she knew so well in herself; she saw that she was intoxicated with the delighted admiration she was exciting. She knew that feeling and knew its signs, and saw them in Anna; saw the quivering, flashing light in her eyes, and the smile of happiness and excitement unconsciously playing on her lips, and the deliberate grace, precision, and lightness of her movements.

    "Who?" she asked herself. "All or one?" And not assisting the harassed young man she was dancing with in the conversation, the thread of which he had lost and could not pick up again, she obeyed with external liveliness the peremptory shouts of Korsunsky starting them all into the grand rond and then into the châine, and at the same time she kept watch with a growing pang at her heart. "No, it's not the admiration of the crowd has intoxicated her, but the adoration of one. And that one? can it be he?" Every time he spoke to Anna the joyous light flashed into her eyes, and the smile of happiness curved her red lips. She seemed to make an effort to control herself, to try not to show these signs of delight, but they came out on her face of themselves. "But what of him?" Kitty looked at him and was filled with terror. What was pictured so clearly to Kitty in the mirror of Anna's face she saw in him. What had become of his always self-possessed resolute manner, and the carelessly serene expression of his face? Now every time he turned to her, he bent his head, as though he would have fallen at her feet, and in his eyes there was nothing but humble submission and dread. "I would not offend you," his eyes seemed every time to be saying, "but I want to save myself, and I don't know how." On his face was a look such as Kitty had never seen before.

    They were speaking of common acquaintances, keeping up the most trivial conversation, but to Kitty it seemed that every word they said was determining their fate and hers. And strange it was that they were actually talking of how absurd Ivan Ivanovitch was with his French, and how the Eletsky girl might have made a better match, yet these words had all the while consequence for them, and they were feeling just as Kitty did. (1.23.1-4)

    Kitty deduces with horror that Vronsky and Anna are falling in love, and this happens without any need to put their attraction into words. Their shared emotion overflows into their ordinary, dull conversation.

    But at that moment the racers started, and all conversation ceased. Alexey Alexandrovitch too was silent, and everyone stood up and turned towards the stream. Alexey Alexandrovitch took no interest in the race, and so he did not watch the racers, but fell listlessly to scanning the spectators with his weary eyes. His eyes rested upon Anna.

    Her face was white and set. She was obviously seeing nothing and no one but one man. Her hand had convulsively clutched her fan, and she held her breath. He looked at her and hastily turned away, scrutinizing other faces.

    "But here's this lady too, and others very much moved as well; it's very natural," Alexey Alexandrovitch told himself. He tried not to look at her, but unconsciously his eyes were drawn to her. He examined that face again, trying not to read what was so plainly written on it, and against his own will, with horror read on it what he did not want to know. (2.28.27-29)

    Anna's behavior while watching the race plainly tells Karenin of her love for Vronsky.

    Levin listened and racked his brains, but could think of nothing to say. Nikolay probably felt the same; he began questioning his brother about his affairs; and Levin was glad to talk about himself, because then he could speak without hypocrisy. He told his brother of his plans and his doings.

    His brother listened, but evidently he was not interested by it.

    These two men were so akin, so near each other, that the slightest gesture, the tone of voice, told both more than could be said in words.

    Both of them now had only one thought – the illness of Nikolay and the nearness of his death – which stifled all else. But neither of them dared to speak of it, and so whatever they said – not uttering the one thought that filled their minds – was all falsehood. Never had Levin been so glad when the evening was over and it was time to go to bed. Never with any outside person, never on any official visit had he been so unnatural and false as he was that evening. And the consciousness of this unnaturalness, and the remorse he felt at it, made him even more unnatural. He wanted to weep over his dying, dearly loved brother, and he had to listen and keep on talking of how he meant to live. (3.31.15-18)

    The brothers are incapable of actually talking to each other, but they both know what the other is thinking. Language gets in the way of their honest interaction. Only when they embrace one another at the end do they feel sincere.

    There was apparently nothing extraordinary in what she said, but what unutterable meaning there was for him in every sound, in every turn of her lips, her eyes, her hand as she said it! There was entreaty for forgiveness, and trust in him, and tenderness – soft, timid tenderness – and promise and hope and love for him, which he could not but believe in and which choked him with happiness. (4.9.40)

    Although Kitty's words are simple, the way she says them means the world to Levin.

    "Remember that I have forbidden you to utter that word, that hateful word," said Anna, with a shudder. But at once she felt that by that very word "forbidden" she had shown that she acknowledged certain rights over him, and by that very fact was encouraging him to speak of love. "I have long meant to tell you this," she went on, looking resolutely into his eyes, and hot all over from the burning flush on her cheeks. "I've come on purpose this evening, knowing I should meet you. I have come to tell you that this must end. I have never blushed before anyone, and you force me to feel to blame for something."

    He looked at her and was struck by a new spiritual beauty in her face.

    "What do you wish of me?" he said simply and seriously.

    "I want you to go to Moscow and ask for Kitty's forgiveness," she said.

    "You don't wish that?" he said.

    He saw she was saying what she forced herself to say, not what she wanted to say.

    "If you love me, as you say," she whispered, "do so that I may be at peace."

    His face grew radiant.

    "Don't you know that you're all my life to me? But I know no peace, and I can't give it to you; all myself – and love...yes. I can't think of you and myself apart. You and I are one to me. And I see no chance before us of peace for me or for you. I see a chance of despair, of wretchedness...or I see a chance of bliss, what bliss!... Can it be there's no chance of it?" he murmured with his lips; but she heard.

    She strained every effort of her mind to say what ought to be said. But instead of that she let her eyes rest on him, full of love, and made no answer. (2.7.44-53)

    Anna seems to hope that by saying she's not interested in Vronsky, it will be true. But instead she still feels love for him. Anna is saying one thing with her mouth, but communicating something entirely different with her eyes. Vronsky understands that Anna's words are not to be trusted.

    "But how was it settled between you, mamma?"

    "You imagine, I dare say, that you invented something quite new? It's always just the same: it was settled by the eyes, by smiles..."

    "How nicely you said that, mamma! It's just by the eyes, by smiles that it's done," Dolly assented. (6.2.32-34)

    The elder Princess Shcherbatsky argues that marriage proposals are confirmed through body language, and not through spoken words. Dolly agrees, and this is also Kitty's experience – Levin proposed to Kitty (the second time, when she accepted) by writing it in chalk.

    Just as she was talking to the porter, the coachman Mihail, red and cheerful in his smart blue coat and chain, evidently proud of having so successfully performed his commission, came up to her and gave her a letter. She broke it open, and her heart ached before she had read it.

    "I am very sorry your note did not reach me. I will be home at ten," Vronsky had written carelessly.... (7.31.14-15)

    Anna believes that Vronsky no longer cares for her because of the way he communicates to her through a careless note. Is she misinterpreting him? Is this a case of miscommunication?