Both the major plots of Anna Karenina—Anna's affair and Levin's discovery of love—hinge on family life. For Levin, the family is the basic unit of all productive society. His observations of peasants, like Ivan Parmenov, show him that people are most likely to work efficiently and productively when their labor benefits their families directly. He uses this knowledge to influence his relationship with Kitty, whose steady spiritual model teaches Levin how to be a better man.
By contrast, Anna's abandonment of her husband, Karenin, and, especially, of her son, Seryozha, destroys her ability to interact productively with society. What is more, once she gives up her family life, she damages her ability to love both Vronsky and her daughter, Annie. Ironically, it is Anna's sacrifice of her family to be with Vronsky that ruins the family feeling she needs in order to be happy with Vronsky.
Questions About Family
- To what extent is family important in this novel? Does it take a second place to love? Society? Independence?
- We're given two examples of men who married mainly out of social obligation: Karenin and Oblonsky. To what extent did their marriages backfire?
- Vronsky and Anna try to create their own little family. Why do they fail?
- How similar are Anna and her brother, Oblonsky? Why do they have such different fates?
Chew on This
Vronsky pursues Anna in part because he has no desire for family life; an adulterous love puts a normal family life out of the question.
Anna's fate as an adulterer is so different from her brother's only because she is a woman and society holds her to a different standard.