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Anna Karenina: Troyat's Story Synopsis

At first, Tolstoy thought of calling his novel Two Couples or Two Marriages, since in an early version Anna Karenina was supposed to get her divorce and marry Vronsky. Then, when the characters began to impose their own wills on the author, the theme veered off in another direction. But it was a theme of the utmost simplicity. Oblonsky, the bon-vivant, has had a stupid affair with his children's former French teacher, and appeals to his sister, Anna Karenina, to try to patch things up between him and his wife. And Anna, who is grace, sweetness and integrity personified, manages to reconcile the couple. She herself is married to Karenin, an important government official in St. Petersburg, twenty years her senior, a dry, self-satisfied man and a slave to etiquette. At her brother's house she meets a swashbuckling officer, Count Vronsky, with whom Kitty, Mrs. Oblonsky's sister, is infatuated. Levin, a sober, introspective young man who is deeply in love with Kitty, goes off in despair to live on his estate when he sees that the girl has eyes for no one but the dashing soldier. Vronsky, however, pays scant attention to Kitty: it is Anna who attracts him. And she, despite her steadfast heart, cannot resist.

After the deed is done, she confesses to her husband. His first thought is to save appearances at all costs, and when his wife falls ill, he is even ready to forgive her. But she recovers and leaves the country with her lover. Then, when the novelty has worn off, her sufferings begin. Vronsky misses his military career, which he had to abandon to follow her. And she is miserable at having left her son in Karenin's care. She returns to see the boy in secret. Far from pacifying her, their meeting only sharpens her despair. She goes from disillusionment to disillusionment and in the end her life becomes intolerable and she throws herself under a train. Vronsky is consumed with remorse and enlists to fight the Turks. In counterpoint to this dark, violent story, there is the light-flooded relationship of Kitty and Levin. After rejecting her suitor Kitty returns to him, won over by his integrity and strength. They marry, settle down in the country and enjoy the perfect happiness of simple souls, in accordance with Tolstoy's golden rule.


Essays + Interviews:
The Roots of the Story | The Making of Anna Karenina
Tolstoy's War with Love | The Woman Question



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