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Themes of Life and Death in Anna Karenina

Themes of Life and Death in Anna Karenina

The novel, Anna Karenina, parallels its heroine’s, Anna Karenina, moral and social conflicts with Constantin Levin’s internal struggle to find the meaning of life. There are many other underlying themes which links the novel as a whole, yet many critics at the time only looked upon its critical view of Russian life. Henry James called Tolstoy’s novels as “loose and baggy monsters’ of stylessness, but Tolstoy stated of Anna Karenina “…..I am very proud of its architecture–its vaults are joined so that one cannot even notice where the keystone is.” That is absolutely correct, because within Anna Karenina, there exists many themes that are all linked together to create such a wonderful piece of work. Critics tend to miss the role that the theme of life and death plays in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Despite its apparent meanings, these two themes are intertwined in the novel and provides a backbone for some of the other existing themes. With a masterful touch, Tolstoy is able to use these two themes to show the characters in their true forms at both stages. The characters are shown to be living in a state of delusion, and as the characters find themselves at times of near death situations or on their deathbed, they are able to reveal themselves truthfully.

Many of the characters in the novel are able to show their “real self” and at times of death, there is a point of reversal in the characters. This is most evident in the scene of Anna’s near death experience during her illness. This event brings about a change in Karenin and even Vronsky as they trade positions. Karenin suddenly becomes human and not hidden from life by his administrative regulations. His carapace cracks, and …

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…l part of everybody’s life and no matter who it is, everybody fears death. To come to terms with death is something that takes a lot of courage and a full understanding of oneself. Tolstoy in his novel, has revealed to us the effect that death can have on a person and advocates us to not succumb to the daily life of the world which we live in, because it is all a delusion. Yet if we live as naturally as possible, we can get a better grasp on the true essence of life as Levin does in the novel. He finds joy out of working and enjoying the fruits of his labor, instead of indulging himself in the materialism of the hypocritical aristocrats. Modern culture has lost this aspect of life and we need to check ourselves before we lead our lives into a downfall.

Works Cited:

Tolstoy, Leo. Anna Karenina, trans. Constance Garnett (New York: The Modern Library, 1993).

Regaining Control in Anna Karenina

Regaining Control in Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina features significant clusters of scenes, all of which describe notable moments in the development of the novel’s major figures. One of the most important clusters is when Anna travels to see Vronsky. On her way her perceptions change; she throws her “searchlight” upon herself. Arriving at the next station she sees the rails and knows what must be done.

Anna has had control over her own life taken away from her, due to the societal limitations on her choices as a woman. She becomes resentful of the society she lives in, and turns that frustration on the unsympathetic Vronsky, who retains his own freedom as well as control over her own happiness. She is too proud and passionate to live in subordination, as Dolly Oblonsky does. Anna cannot conceive of going on indefinitely as she has been, and at the same time can take no pleasure from contemplation of her past, or her future, which holds no prospect of change. Feeling trapped and untrue to her own unwanted desires, she begins to see the entire world as a wretched place populated by miserable, entrapped individuals just like herself. Through death alone, she feels she can secure a place in Vronsky’s heart. Death is also the only decision that she is free to carry out on her own.

The place that Anna occupies is like that of a child, making up tasks for herself to fill the time, while others make the decisions that affect her life. Anna tries to interest herself with educating the English girl, writing a children’s book, but these are all distractions from the fact that she has nowhere to go. Oblonsky and Karenin meet to try to settle the question of Anna’s future, without inviting Anna to plead for herself or otherwise a…

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…bout whether or not the maidservant will remember to put clean sheets on the guests’ beds. But neither of these women’s roles are true to her own desires. To stay on this earth is to place control of her life in the hands of a man whom she is not certain loves her. Anna’s decision is incomprehensible to Madame Vronsky: “Can you understand these desperate passions?” (812). But from our view of Anna’s mental landscape, we can understand them all too well.

Works Cited

Jahn, Gary R. “The Images of the Railroad in Anna Karenina,” Slavic and East European Journal 2 (1981): 1-10.

Mandelker, Amy. “Feminist Criticism and Anna Karenina.” Tolstoy Studies Journal III (1990): 82-103

Nitze, Paul H.

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