The love story –sweet and daring for some, sordid and offending for others-- between Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky is compelling and tragic. Anna and the Count have an affair, causing an uproar in society. Because of the double standards of the time, while Vronsky may still hold his head high in society, Anna is forced to hold her chin down and hide her shame.
Anna turns to Vronsky ─a dashing military man─ as a refuge from her passionless marriage to a pompous, despotic bureaucrat; a move that results not only in the loss of her position in the world, but also in total social ostracism. Such situation fills her with self-doubt, and ends up destroying her confidence and ultimately her life. A parallel plot follows the contrasting fortunes of Levin (Tolstoy's alter ego, with his deep love of the land) and Kitty, whose marriage thrives and prospers because of mutual commitment, sympathy, and respect. In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy reaches deep into his own experiences and his observations of family and friends to create a picture of Russian society that reaches from the high life in St. Petersburg and Moscow to the idyllic rural existence of Kitty and Levin.
Tolstoy shows Anna Karenina as a young woman who finds herself in a loveless and hopeless marriage. But this fact might not have seemed so intolerable had she not met and fallen in love with Count Vronsky. But she did and the reckless affair commenced. In contrast to Anna's tragic affair, we hear about the relationship between Kitty and Levin, a conjugal, idealized love match. Levin is first rejected by Kitty because she has her heart set on Count Vronsky whose affections are already taken by Anna Karenina. Brokenhearted, Kitty eventually turns back to Levin for love and marriage. In the character of Anna, Tolstoy creates a woman fated for tragedy, as Anna falls in love blindly with Count Vronsky. Although she could well have continued the relationship in secret she defies the "rules," by having her affair...
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