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The Characters of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina

Powerful Essays
The Characters of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina

By examining the character list, one immediately notices the value

Tolstoy places on character. With one hundred and forty named characters

and several other unnamed characters, Tolstoy places his central focus in

Anna Karenina on the characters. He uses their actions and behavior to

develop the plot and exemplify the major themes of the novel. Tolstoy

wishes to examine life as it really is. Tolstoy gives us a lifelike

representation in Anna Karenina by creating characters, both major and

minor, that contribute to the sense of realism.

The most striking feature of Tolstoy's minor characters is that

although they may only appear briefly, they still possess a sense of

lifelikeness. When a character is introduced, Tolstoy provides the reader

with details of the characters appearance and actions that give a sense of

realism. For example, the waiter that Stiva and Levin encounter at their

dinner, although a flat character is definitely presented in a manner which

allows him to have a sense of lifelikeness and fullness. From the speech

patterns the waiter uses to the description of the fit of his uniform, one

is presented with the details that allow the waiter to contribute to the

novel in means beyond simply the presence of a minor character. His

description and actions provide the novel with a sense of "real life".

Another way in which Tolstoy gives the minor character a sense of

life is by making them unpredictable. One sees this in the character of

Ryabinin. When initially discussed, the reader is told that upon

conclusion of busines...

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...esponse to the same situation. It is this contrast of the

three characters that allows Tolstoy to take full command of the life novel.

He achieves a sense of real life in all of his characters.

Although the reader may wish to, and can, draw distinctions in

Tolstoy's characters such as a major or minor character that is either

flat or round, the central focus of the character should be the

contribution that they make to the reality of the novel. Although one can

classify each of the characters in Anna Karenina as a major, minor, flat or

round character, Tolstoy presents each of his characters, whether they be

major minor flat or round, so as to convey a sense of reality and

lifelikeness in his novel.

Work Cited

Tolstoy, Leo, Anna Karenin, translated by Edmonds, Rosemary, Penguin, London, 1978.