Women’s Right to Choose: Marriage in Anna Karenina Essay

Women’s Right to Choose: Marriage in Anna Karenina Essay

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“Women are the only oppressed group in our society that lives in intimate association with their oppressors.” said American journalist Evelyn Cunningham. For centuries, women were considered inferior to their male counterparts and caged into the small bubble of the domestic sphere, left out of any advancements in politics or science. In protest, women would attempt to voice their opinions is various ways, such as going through their husbands, writing essays under a male alias, or just plainly defying society’s regulations. One central issue that was prevalent in society was the woman’s place in marriage. By old tradition, the wife was to serve her husband and please him in every way she could. As time progressed, however, women began to demand a stronger place in the family life. One major part of that family life was being able to have a choice in the matter of marriage. Leo Tolstoy’s 1870s novel Anna Karenina promotes this feministic social change in nineteenth-century Russia through the development of the relationships of two women, Kitty and Anna, with one representing a life with a choice and the other a life without choice.
Kitty Shcherbatsky is shown as the woman with the ability to choose her husband. In the introduction of the novel, she is seen as being infatuated with a handsome young man, Count Vronsky (45). However, Vronsky is not the only man in her life seeking for her love; Levin, a farmer from the countryside, has long been in love with Kitty and has come to Moscow to ask for her hand in marriage (21). Despite Kitty’s affections for him, she rejected his proposal, claiming “it cannot be” and asked for forgiveness (48). Kitty’s rejection of Levin cannot be seen as merely a woman choosing between two men based on he...


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...na would have just been granted a divorce, most of her emotional distress could have been avoided and lived that perfect life she imagined for Vronsky and herself.
Tolstoy uses his characters as a way to advocate the change of a woman’s place in society, choosing the freedom in marriage as the foundation for message. He makes a point that choice ends in happiness, whereas the lack of choice ends in despair. Tolstoy was not alone in this way of thinking and his message was indeed spread. If it wasn’t for the authors and other advocates of women’s emancipation, those rights might have never been realized. It just takes small pieces, such as books like Anna Karenina, to bring together that one big picture for the world to see.



Works Cited

Tolstoy, Leo, Richard Pevear, and Larissa Volokhonsky. Anna Karenina: A Novel in Eight Parts. New York, NY: Penguin, 2002. Print.

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