Anna Karenina Summary
Anna Karenina is a masterpiece of Leo Tolstoy. It is a novel of social criticism-criticism of sex, marriage, and morals. A starkly realistic novel, it has two plots : The love of Anna Karenina, a married woman, with a person who is not her husband; and the narrative of Konstantine Levin, whose views on life and philosophy are those of the author himself. Anna has to live with a husband, whom she cannot love. She is chained with the fetters of a social system, which brings about her undoing. The society does not recognize her extra-marital love, and forces her to put an end to herself. Levin as Tolstoy’s mouthpiece seeks to resolve the incongruities of the moribund society.
Anna Karenina, an exquisitely lovely and educated woman, had come to Moscow to settle a quarrel between her brother Stepan Oblongsky and his wife Dolly. There Anna happened to meet a strikingly handsome young Count Vronsky, who was rumoured to be in love with Dolly’s younger sister Kitty. Konstantine Levin was also in love with Kitty. It so happened that Anna and Levin called at to Stepan Oblongsky’s house at the same time. Kitty considered Vronsky to be much superior to Levin, and, therefore rejected him. The rumouer was, baseless, for Vronsky had no intention to marry Kitty, even if he had some weakness for her for sometime. As soon as he cast his eyes upon Anna, he felt his heart beating and decided to have her at any cost. Anna developed a similar passion for Vronsky, and permitted him to follow her, as she returned home in St. Petersburg.
Anna and Vronsky were seen together in the ball, theatre, opera and musical Soirees. Their relation seems so intimate that people were apt to imagine them to be a loving couple. But the local society knew Anna to be the wife of Alexei Karenin, and hence her unseemly intimacy gave rise to all sorts of gossip and scandal. A believer in social decorum, Alexei Karenin was very much concerned and sought to bring the chapter to a close. He was not jealous, for jealousy is a passion, and he was neither passionate nor emotional. But he was not capable of any passion. Cold and calculating, he knew which side the bread was buttered He did not bother if his beautiful wife had affairs with other men. What he was concerned with was social decorum. Whatever dirt and filth might be outside, he cared only for maintaining an excellent facade. One night he had a frank discussion with Anna about all that he had heard. He asked her to be more careful about her ways. He categorically forbade her not to entertain Vronsky at his house. He would not like people to whisper about them and call him a cuckold. She might have affairs with others, but that would affect the future of their only son Seryozha. Anna did not protest, nor did she create a scene. Very meekly and quietly she submitted to her husband’s admonition
It was, however, a terrible conflict in Anna’s mind. She did realise that a married woman having a son should not get emotionally involved in this way. For sometime she stopped seeing Vronsky. But as soon as she heard that Vronsky was injured in a race track accident, she could no longer retain her mental strength, nor her determination to avoid him. She betrayed her feelings publicly, and Alexei Karenin was at the end of his tether. He took her severely to task. In fact, he thought of getting rid of her. But he could not decide upon his course of action. His excitement reached feverish pitch. A duel with Vronsky, he thought, could vindicate his honour. He also thought of the possibility of a divorce. And ultimately he abandoned the idea of both duel and divorce. To keep Anna under his roof was the only thing he could do. Anna became more discreet, and met Vronsky secretly but regularly.
Levin, jilted by Kitty, did not give way to emotional outbursts. He went to his country estate and got absorbed in the problems of agriculture and the peasantry. Highly educated and well-to-do as he was, he loved to be a man of the soil. He did not think beneath his dignity to work in the fields with a scythe with the Serfs. He loved their company, for they were naive, simple and unsophisticated. But mere pity and sympathy for the peasants would do little good. He made elaborate plans for their all-round development, one being related to co-operative enterprise system. Levin by nature was an introvert, and did not tell his friends about his disappointment in love. A courageous man, he was optimistic enough to believe that something better would turn up. Kitty was still a virgin and lay ill for some time. On her recovery she had come back to Moscow. Levin must seek the earliest opportunity to speak to her once again. Perhaps she would relent and choose to be his partner in life. He knew that once Kitty genuinely loved him. Now perhaps her pride prevented her from meeting Levin. He should meet her and propose, and her cold reserve would dissolve. He was buoyed up with the hope that the situation was not beyond recovery.
Anna had sexual union with Vronsky, and was pregnant. Vronsky was ready to accept full responsibility of this adultery, and advised Anna to seek divorce from Alexei Karenin, so that they might be legally married. In that case they would have no more snags to marry and live happily together. A stickler for social decorum, Alexi Karenin said to Anna that he would accept the child as his own, and, thus, spare her the social obloquy to which she would be exposed. He ruled out the possibility of a divorce, for that would be the height of folly and let loose social scandal Still Anna remained un moved and insisted on divorce. Alexei Karenin then threatened that if she would insist on her way, he would have no other alternative but to take away their son from her custody. Anna loved Seryozha, and could not think of living apart from him.
There was a cold war between Alexei Karenin and Anna. The relation was extremely strained, although they still lived under the same roof. One night Alexei Karenin had planned to go out. As he was leaving, Vronsky, on Anna’s invitation, stepped in. It was too much for Alexei Karenin. He told Anna that he must divorce her- a course he so long avoided, and keep their son Seryozha in his exclusive custody. But on second reflection, he abandoned the idea once again. The full picture of the legal complications and public scandal loomed large before his vision. He was simply dazed. He must wait at least till the delivery of Anna’s child. In the meanwhile Alexei Karenin won an important political seas and leaped into eminence. If he would have to divorce his wife when he had become the cynosure of public eye, he would be thrown into disrepute beyond salvage.
Anna gave birth to a child, and was almost on death-bed. Vronsky had a guilty conscience. For he felt that his passion and indiscretion were hastening his beloved’s death. He was so emotionally wrought that he thought of committing suicide. Alexei Karenin also relented. His wife, once so dear, was on her deathbed. Her only tonic was the sight of Vronsky. Whenever Vronsky called, her pale face was lit with a faint smile. Alexei Karenin no longer discouraged Vronsky to come to their house. Anna at last recovered and accompanied Vronsky and their baby daughter to Italy.
Levin proposed to Kitty, and it was pretty plain sailing. They were eventually married. On partial recovery Anna returned to Russia with Vronsky and their baby, and went to live on his estate. Things had come to such a pass that she had to abandon the idea of going back to the house of Alexei Karenin.
Anna’s husband had every reason, every justification, legal and moral to divorce her. And yet he did not. The society laid all the blame at Anna’s door, and looked upon Alexei Karenin as a man of integrity, unswerving honour, and unimpeachable loyalty to his wife, who had so shockingly and glaringly spurned the love and devotion of an ideal husband. Anna had never loved her husband, but their son Seryozha was still the pupil of her eye. At times, therefore, she came near her house to have a look at her son, without being detected by her husband or neighbours. She could occasionally have a glimpse at her son. But her reaction could not be happy. She felt some unbearable pangs, and did not know how to assuage her aching heart. She had grown a little abnormal, and was increasingly demanding towards Vronsky. It was, indeed, an irritating situation, and Vronsky deliberately avoided her company as far as possible. She could not love her baby daughter. The dream of romance and love was completely shattered. One day she went to the railway station, and even at that time she had no idea of committing suicide. She bought a ticket and stood on the platform for the arrival of the train. She stood on the platform and looked at the railway tracks. A train was coming, and its loud, almost deafening sound reached her ears. Suddenly the memory flashed in her mind,- the memory of a man run over near the Moscow station on the day she met Vronsky for the first time. The rail tracks tempted her and the temptation was irresistible. She jumped in front of the coming train.
Anna paid the supreme penalty of unlawful love. Vronsky joined the army not for military glory, but death in action. All his bonhomie, his joie de vivre was gone. His only reason to live was Anna. And, therefore, life was no longer worthwhile.
Levin and Kitty had a purpose in their life. They had robust idealism, and their life was happily spent in the company of the serfs and peasants. Levin had money, and he knew that money, spent for the good of humanity, could bring happiness. Kitty was not a social butterfly. She shared with her husband the responsibility of implementing the plans for the amelioration of the condition of the poor and oppressed peasants. Levin never claimed that his plans for work were infallible. But he felt that life had its beauty and charm. “He was conscious that his partner in life made his life worthwhile.
10 All Time Best Quotes from Anna Karenina
“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
“I think… if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.”
“Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be.”
“All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.”
“it’s much better to do good in a way that no one knows anything about it.”
“But the law of loving others could not be discovered by reason, because it is unreasonable.”
“I’ve always loved you, and when you love someone, you love the whole person, just as he or she is, and not as you would like them to be.”
“It’s hard to love a woman and do anything.”
“He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.”
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