Anna Karenina

Mixed Messages; Judgment in Anna Karenina

The question of judgment and sympathies in Anna Karenina is one that, every time I have read the novel, seems to become more complicated and slung with obfuscation. The basic problem with locating the voice of judgment is that throughout the novel, there are places where we feel less than comfortable with the seemingly straightforward, at times even didactic presentation of Anna and Vronsky's fall into sin alongside Levin's constant moral struggle. As Anna's story unfolds in its episodic manner within the context of the rest of the novel, Tolstoy seems to be trying to make the fact of her guilt more and more clear to us; at the same time though, we have more and more difficulty in tracing out the specific locus of that guilt. In a novel as consummately constructed as this one is, we are tempted to look for places where the undercurrents of the text, the places where the text takes on its own life and force, run against, or at least complicate, the discernment of authorial judgment. By closely examining Tolstoy's treatment of Anna's moral crisis as compared with his handling of Levin, we might attempt to unravel the book's rather layered and complex system of condemnation.

The novel's epigraph sets a...

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