I know one of the characteristics of realistic works is they are mostly formulated as some independent studies of the life of society but, at the same time, I realise that the dominant approach to art in that time was to see it pragmatically, as a way to share your worldview.

Anna Karenina seems to describe lives of two relationships: Once (in the relationship between Anna Karenina and Vronsky) the characters fell into the natural desire for the "natural love" (éros, so to speak) and it ended badly and once, in the relationship of Kitty and Levin, the characters seemed to contemplate about their relationship for a while and they seemed to make a happy, overall fulfilled couple.

So we can see the book is pretty far from describing the naturalistic hopelessness and straightforward critique of the opportunistic society. Rather, I feel like Tolstoy thus argues by the natural nature of love for more liberal approach of society (the conservatism of Alexey and Mrs. Scherbatska had been devastating).

But is it really possible that Leo Tolstoy intended to make the story that symbolic? Can we see there some kind of model of love Tolstoy is trying to describe?

  • I'm sorry, I haven't read the book and I'm having a bit of trouble understanding what your question is
    – DForck42
    Jan 30, 2017 at 20:12
  • @DForck42 I hope my edit helped you understand
    – foggy
    Jan 30, 2017 at 20:19

1 Answer 1


One of the guilty pleasures of writing is that you create a world where you have absolute power. You place the scenery, you define the people, you make the rules, and you decide who lives and who dies. Whatever you intend for readers to take away from your work, you make specific statements with your plot.

In a fairy tale, the hero overcomes obstacles with his bravery, wit, strength, or dumb luck. When he marries the princess and lives happily ever after, you have told the reader that that is his reward for having those qualities.

Tolstoy states his idea of marriage by presenting two contrasting couples. Anna (the title character) is married to Alexey, but if he loves anything, it's his job. As long as Anna does what he expects of her, her other activities are tolerated.

Anna falls in love with Vronsky, a dashing officer. She has never really loved Alexey. When she must choose between the two, she always chooses Vronsky.

Farmer Levin loves Kitty, but he's awkward and shy. Kitty turns him down but goes into a funk. While recovering, she meets Varenka, an angelic figure who inspires her to re-assess her lifestyle. Levin also tries to lose himself, in his case with study and work. When their paths cross again, they are ready for marriage.

In the end, love is not enough to save a relationship. Anna hides from her insecurity in drugs and denial, and she dies in a fall. Vronsky sees himself through Alexey's eyes and commits a form of suicide. As in a fairy tale, when you don't win, you die.

Levin and Kitty examine themselves and find room for improvement. They have epiphanies. They want to be better people, and they work towards that goal. Tolstoy's reward for them is to live happily ever after.

  • I'm not sure if I can accept that since I don't know what Tolstoy really intended to write about but I like your answer.
    – foggy
    Jul 26, 2017 at 19:03

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