Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy ranks as one of the world's great writers. He was also an important moral thinker and reformer.
Tolstoy was born at Yasnaya Polyana, Russia, the fourth of five children. After being educated at Kazan in 1844, he joined the army in 1852. He fought proudly in the Crimean War, and after he left the army, he traveled abroad. He inspected German schools to insure their quality before going to his brother's side outside of Marseille, France. Nicolai died at a spa with his brother at his side. This death affected Tolstoy so deeply that his writing was the only thing that kept him afloat.
Upon his return, Tolstoy settled on his Volga estate, where he wrote his epic masterpiece War and Peace - the story of five families during Napoleon's invasion of Russia. His next novel, Anna Karenina, written in the romantic period, is one of the great love stories of the world.
He married Sofya Andreyevna Bers, a.k.a. Sonya, and had nine children. Tolstoy then experienced a spiritual crisis which led to such works as A Confession and What I Believe. Some of his similar, earlier struggles were recorded in Anna Karenina, which he had previously published.
Tolstoy converted to his religion, Tolstoyism. This faith said that "only through emotional and religious commitment can one discover this natural truth". His family disapproved of this and made life around the Tolstoy house unbearable for almost everyone.
In his last days, he transferred his fortune to his wife and lived poorly as a peasant under her roof. Leaving home secretly, Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy died of pneumonia some days later at nearby railway station.
Anna is portrayed as a beautiful, mysterious woman who encompasses the quest for personal discovery. She is content in her life, but sees something that she wants more. This love, the love for Vronsky, drives her to unimaginable heights to keep her life and mental state at a safe level. As a woman, Anna suffers great injustices for her actions. These unfair laws of society drive her to her grave.
Levin is representative of Tolstoy's life. He is a respected, educated, and well off landowner in the aristocracy. His quest for self-discovery leads him out into the fields with his workers, thrashing grass with the rest of them. He also lusts after Kitty, and finally attains her love when she realizes what a good and true man he is.