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Anna Karenina is a novel by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, published in serial installments from 1873 to 1877 in the periodical The Russian Messenger. Widely regarded as a pinnacle in realist fiction, Tolstoy considered Anna Karenina his first true novel . The character of Anna was likely inspired, in part, by Maria Hartung , the elder daughter of the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin . Although Russian critics dismissed the novel on its publication as a “trifling romance of high life”, Fyodor Dostoevsky declared it to be “flawless as a work of art”.
His opinion was shared by Vladimir Nabokov, who especially admired “the flawless magic of Tolstoy’s style”, and by William Faulkner, who described the novel as “the best ever written”. The novel is divided into eight parts. Its epigraph is “Vengeance is mine, I will repay”. Tolstoy’s language has a chafing effect on readers coming to it for the first time; it takes time to synch with his rhythms. The novel begins with one of its most quoted lines: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Anna Karenina is the tragedy of married aristocrat and socialite Anna Karenina and her affair with the affluent Count Vronsky. The story starts when she arrives in the midst of a family broken up by her brother’s unbridled womanizing – something that prefigures her own later situation, though with less tolerance for her by others. A bachelor, Vronsky is willing to marry her if she would agree to leave her husband Karenin, a government official, but she is vulnerable to the pressures of Russian social norms, her own insecurities and Karenin’s indecision.
Although Vronsky eventually takes Anna to Europe where they can be together, they have trouble in making friends. She is shunned, becoming further isolated and anxious. Despite Vronsky’s reassurances she grows increasingly possessive and paranoid about his imagined infidelity, fears losing control and eventually takes her own life. A parallel story within the novel is of Levin, a country landowner who desires to marry Kitty, sister to Dolly and sister-in-law to Anna’s brother Oblonsky. Levin has to propose twice before Kitty accepts.
The novel details Levin’s difficulties managing his estate, his eventual marriage, and personal issues, until the birth of Levin’s first child. Tolstoy’s style in Anna Karenina is considered by many critics to be transitional, forming a bridge between the realist and modernist novel. The novel is narrated from a third-person-omniscient perspective, shifting the narrator’s attention to several major characters, though most frequently focusing on the opposing lifestyles and attitudes of its central protagonists of Anna and Levin.
There is an excessive use of stream of consciousness. Tolstoy has used real events in his narrative, to lend greater verisimilitude to the fictional events of his narrative. Characters speak of the significant sociopolitical issues affecting Russia in the latter half of the nineteenth century, like the place and role of the Russian peasant in society, education reform, and women’s rights. Tolstoy communicates his own political beliefs through this novel.
He includes in the transcript, his own analysis of the ideologies, behaviors, and ideas running through contemporary Russia through the thoughts of Levin. The broad array of situations and ideas depicted in Anna Karenina allows Tolstoy to present a treatise on his Russian era, and, by virtue of its very breadth and depth, all of human society. This stylistic technique, as well as the novel’s use of perspective, greatly contributes to the thematic structure of Anna Karenina .
The novel is basically a taunt on Russian aristocracy although Tolstoy himself was a part of it. It emphasizes on the notions of hypocrisy, jealousy, faith, fidelity, family, marriage, dodge, society, progress, carnal desire and passion, and the agrarian connection to land in contrast to the lifestyles of the city. There is a point raised on the adulterous liaisons and the inferiority complex for speaking french instead of russian language, in the Russian Aristocratic society. Tolstoy allows his themes to emerge naturally from the “vast panorama of Russian life.
The novel sends a message that “no one can build one’s happiness on another’s pain. ” Anna karenina implicitly shows the “respect” and “honour” given to women in western society which debates on Human Rights. Western society is not an exception, women mostly considered to be the puppets regardless of the societies. This is why Allama Iqbal talks about the hollowness of the western society. Islam takes a moderated approach for women. There are restrictions but her role is also justified in the society.
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