Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (10/10)

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy is a powerful, poignant  novel about the Russian princess and prominent societal figure Anna Arkadyevna Karenina, whose thirst for love is her undoing.  Although Anna’s life seems to fulfill all the requirements for happiness, she still feels that it lacks meaning.  As a result, she entangles herself in a situation reprehensible both to society and to the law; namely, she commits the crime of loving Count Vronsky despite being another man’s wife.  Together, Anna and Vronsky sever their connections with society and social status in order to remain lovers.  However, this isolation weighs heavily on them both as their love literally consumes their lives.  Throughout this turmoil, Tolstoy also incorporates the social transformations of the late 19th century and those changes’ effects on the characters’ lives.

Some particularly intriguing aspects of Anna Karenina include detailed insights into the characters’ innermost thoughts and Tolstoy’s extensive musings on the workings of the world.  Every single thought and emotion which flits through a character’s mind is printed on the page; nothing is hidden, making the motives behind any action completely clear.  As a result, no plot twists are entirely unexpected, but one acquires a profound understanding of each individual in the story.  Through these complex characters, the author explores the human soul, producing his own answer to the meaning of life and human existence.  This ambitious undertaking adds an extra layer of gravity to the book.

Throughout the novel, Leo Tolstoy utilizes symbolism to enhance the story.  For example, he represents Anna Karenina’s life as a candle illuminating the “book filled with anxieties, deceptions, grief and evil” (Tolstoy 768).  Another symbol is Anna’s recurring dream of a peasant pounding iron, which could indicate her feeling that even the poorest human being condemns her for her actions.  Tolstoy also includes superb imagery and descriptions.  However, humor is entirely absent, and the author’s musings about life permeate the entire book, as if it is a reflection of his own mind rather than fiction.

Therefore, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina would appeal to older audiences such as teenagers and adults, simply because its subject matter, mood, and writing style are so solemn and weighty.  For those who enjoy a fascinating plot with a deep philosophical undertone, Anna Karenina is perfect.  It is not a light read and those perusing it should prepare to ponder momentous themes such as life, death, and love.

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