What is this constant need for more in life? Can’t we just be happy with what we have? Curiosity and a desire to push the limits stunt the worthwhile goal of a lasting contentment. In Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Anna’s life is spiritually empty, and so she fills it with earthly pleasures (such as adultery) to fill the void. Levin, the other protagonist, also feels throughout the story as though something is missing in his life, but ends up actually discovering what will maintain his happiness in the long run. A main theme in the book is whether or not it is possible to preserve a happy life in a healthy way. Both characters, Anna and Levin, demonstrate how and how not to accomplish this. Filled with despair and hopelessness, as well as completeness and awareness, Anna Karenina shows what an effect, whether positive or negative, people can impose upon themselves. We begin with Anna, who sets herself up to be unhappy when she marries Alexei Alexandrovich. She never loved him, and never felt complete with him. In19th century Russia, an uninspired marriage such as this was not uncommon. Women are loving creatures though, and need to be loved in return. Anna’s affair with Vronsky was mere infatuation, but because love was absent from her married life, she at least wanted to feel some flame of passion. She justifies her actions by saying, “They don’t know how [Alexei] has been stifling my life for eight years, stifling everything that was alive in me, that he never once even thought that I was a living woman who needed love” (292). By “they” she is referring to society, because of how they will end up shunning her for her unconventional choices. Her point is valid, but in no way does she solve her problem in an effective way. She gets herself into this predicament with Vronsky, instead of trying to find another solution to her discontent. A clandestine affair with another man does not provide happiness, and will actually hamper any desire for...
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