Anna Karenina

The Question of Suicide in War and Peace and Anna Karenina College

In 1898, Tolstoy wrote in a Letter on Suicide that “suicide is immoral.” He vehemently condemned the act of it, by qualifying it as unreasonable and wrong. However, in his earlier books, such as War and Peace and Anna Karenina, Tolstoy treats suicide, along with mortality in general, as an extremely important subject that affects many characters. Though Tolstoy may have spoken against suicide in his later work, the author clearly understood its reality and importance in society; he therefore chose to depict it in Anna Karenina with Anna Karenina, Constantine Levin, and Alexei Vronsky, and in War and Peace with Natasha Rostov and Helene Kuragin. Tolstoy does not condemn the suicides as immoral or irrational, but instead, in most instances, portrays the characters in a very sympathetic manner. More importantly, Tolstoy shows us what characteristics make people able to deal with situations that would drive other people to suicide. He depicts suicide as an unfortunate last resort for those lacking family support and strong religious values.

Throughout both of his great novels, Tolstoy uses a sympathetic narrator, who sees both the good and the bad in all of the characters. Suicide is no exception to this approach, and though...

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