"Reason has been given to man to enable him to escape from his troubles."1 These words, spoken by an unknown woman on a train minutes before Anna took her own life, proved cold comfort for Vronsky's mistress. Unable to reason her way out of her despair, she flung her body under a train in an act of vengeance and escape. She failed in her personal quest, one for fulfillment that she shares with the other main protagonist in the novel, Levin, who makes corresponding attempts to reason through his own dilemmas. Anna Karenina is an epic, through which are interwoven the parallel accounts of the personal struggles of Anna and Levin, developed in tandem. One ends in death and tragedy, the other in spiritual fulfillment. It is a novel of balances; not only of plots, but also of characters, and relationships between characters.
Tolstoy's choice of title immediately sets up expectations in the reader; expectations that are destined to be disappointed. Although the reader may anticipate a straightforward tale of a woman's descent into adultery, they will find that that element is enclosed by and permeated with the equally dominant tale of a man's quest for harmony and love, and a good deal of extraneous material. Levin serves as a mouthpiece for Tolstoy's beliefs, and on occasions his activities take on a pseudo-biographical aspect. At times it seems that Anna's involvement in the novel is minimal - with episodes involving her being sparsely distributed - and the reader may well wonder why the novel is so entitled.
Although it is difficult to be certain of Tolstoy's motives, this essay will argue that he so named the novel because of the utterly pivotal and essential fu...
... middle of paper ...
...nt, independent, and thoughtful character, there is an undertone running throughout he novel that suggests that she has failed to adopt the befitting social role for a woman. Ultimately, she is portrayed as irrational and emotionally labile, driven by insatiable desires: "I don't know myself," says Anna as she sinks near to her lowest ebb; "I only know my appetites, as the French say."15
Tolstoy, Leo, Anna Karenin, translated by Edmonds, Rosemary, Penguin, London, 1978.
1 Tolstoy, Leo, Anna Karenin, translated by Edmonds, Rosemary, Penguin, London, 1978, p. 799.
2 Ibid., p. 508.
3 Ibid., pp. 588-9.
4 Ibid., pp. 796-7.
5 Ibid., p. 490.
6 Ibid., p. 491.
7 Ibid., p. 798.
8 Ibid., p. 532.
9 Ibid., p. 672.
10 Ibid., p. 800.
11 Ibid., p. 853.
12 Ibid., p. 832.
14 Ibid., in "Introduction".
15 Ibid., p. 793
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