The story follows the lives of two main characters: Anna Karenina, who is married to a rich statesman leading the picture perfect family life while on the other hand we are acquainted with Levin, who is largely based on the author himself. Tolstoy takes the reader on a journey that explores the lives of two contrasting yet strangely connected personalities. Set in later 19th century Russia, which was then struggling to establish its socialist lines of governance, the novel is an interesting take upon the social as well as the personal implications of the people’s lives present at the time.
Besides being a political narration of the period, it gives the reader a glimpse of how the families of Russia were affected. Through Anna we meet the hollow yet seemingly happy Russian aristocratic wife who desperately searches for some joy in her mundane life filled with a parade of endless cotillions and banquet galas. Having a husband who is more keen on making a mark in the political sphere of the time, is unperturbed by his wife’s need for some love and attention. Count Vronsky , her paramour, comes to her like a breath of fresh air. Here ensues the passionate yet disruptive affair between Anna and Vronsky.
Socially unaccepted, this is where all hell breaks loose and everything seems to go haywire for the attention-seeking housewife. On the other hand, Levin, our mirror image of the author tries to find solace in the simple things in life after being disdained by his beloved “Kitty”. He then to fill the emptiness so created in his life takes up the task of reconciling with his dysfunctional and estranged brother Nikolay.
Although Anna appears to find some reason to smile by taking the help of Vronsky’s affection for her, the inner demon of insecurities in her begin to strike as she feels inadequate among other things to be the receiver of Vronsky’s love. This leaves her dejected and unhappy bringing her back to her original sullen state of mind that ultimately results in her committing suicide. Her death not only destroyed her own gift of life but also ruined her family, left her son without a mother and left Vronsky broken hearted.
Tolstoy executes some remarkable imagery in his writing and succeeds in giving the reader a lifelike description of the thoughts and emotions of the characters in the novel. Even though the novel tends to get slightly monotonous due to its great length it manages to hold the reader’s attention to itself due to the staggering upheavals that are shown to arise in the protagonists’ lives and in society as well. The political analysis made by the writer of late 19th century Russia is complex and brilliantly detailed offering the reader a panoramic view of the mindsets and direction political thought found in Russians of the time.
Thus, Tolstoy emerges victorious in delivering a masterpiece of a love story coupled with a socio-political insight all in one great package in the form of “ Anna Karenina” that is read by people of all ages, from all generations.
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