The Motivation of Actions
In Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1877), different characters are shaped by their experiences. Every decision they make affects their final destinies. Levin once said, “I believe the chief motive of all our actions to be, when all is said and done, our personal happiness.”(287) Nevertheless, I do not agree with Levin. In Tolstoy’s setting, people’s actions are not based on their personal happiness like Levin thinks. Koznyshev views society’s needs as the standard of his actions. Levin strictly follows his rigid schedule, leaving no room for happiness. Anna’s guilt from challenging social opinion and her love for Seryozha force her to do things against her wishes. All of these illustrate that people’s actions are restrained by their responsibility to society. Responsibility to society is one of the factors that affect people’s actions. A noble, selfless figure acts to serve the public but not to satisfy his own desires, just like Koznyshev. Koznyshev has the opposing view to Levin’s argument about the motivation of people’s actions. Koznyshev bears the burden of benefiting the whole public on himself. Therefore, even though, Levin tells him that he “can see nothing in rural councils today that [can] contribute to [his] well-being” (287), Koznyshev still urges him to take part in the council and “sacrifice your [Levin’s] peace of mind, your [Levin’s] vanity”(285) to reform council and better peasants’ living conditions. He convinces Levin to put effort in building the medical centers and schools for peasants as well. As Levin says, Koznyshev “endows with the faculty of working for the general good. This shows that Koznyshev works for the “general good” and not for his own interests. Furthermore, Koznyshev takes his actions based on what current society wants instead of his happiness. This is revealed in that he uses six years to write a book about Russians current status, and when it is no longer a focus of society, he immediately...
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