What's Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy about?
Leo Tolstoy’s psychological novel Anna Karenina follows the life of the enchanting and rebellious Anna who seeks to break free from the shackles of society. Set in late 19th century Russia, Anna is portrayed as an ideal, cultivated aristocratic wife, mother and model for women alike.
Although at first glance she seems to have it all in life, Anna yearns for love and affection- something her cold diplomatic husband cannot provide. She grows discontent of their loveless relationship, and is tired of the façade she has been putting up in order to sustain a positive social image. A chance encounter with the charming and irresistibly handsome Vronsky sparks Anna’s desire for love and consequently results in her entering the waters of infidelity. However, the honey moon stage of their relationship comes to an end, and things take an unsuspected turn of events, as the inescapable consequences of their affair come to surface. Scorn, exile, jealousy, isolation and suspicion are just some of the issues Anna must face in day to day life. Similarly her acquaintance, Levin, who is an independent and somewhat social misfit, is also struggling to find his place in society as he neither identifies himself as an intellectual, bureaucrat, rebel, nor socialite. He too is on the hunt for the promised fruits of life and individual happiness. His up and down union with Kitty and their inconsistent feelings towards each other acts as a contrast to the evolving relationship between Vronsky and Anna.
Tolstoy’s classic depicts a clash between individual fulfillment and a respectable place in society. Despite remaining consistent in their search for happiness and self gratification, none of the characters are immune to the inevitable obstacles life can cruelly serve up. The clarification of mankind’s inexhaustible question on the true meaning of life, and the individual perception of happiness between the characters are what make Anna Karenina such a captivating novel. Its story of passion, adultery, betrayal, and self-discovery leaves readers mesmerized long after its conclusion.