Anna Karenina

Understanding Birth & Comprehending Death: Levin’s Shifts in Self-Knowledge College

Constantine Levin’s pair of pivotal experiences contribute significantly to Anna Karenina’s psychological tapestry because these moments of crisis draw out and highlight the subjectivity of the protagonist’s life experience. The novel’s overarching theme of emergent moral consciousness is thus foregrounded in these scenes that feature prominent shifts in self-awareness. The reader is instructed to compare these scenes first by their differences in symbolic content, then on the narrative grounds of subjectivity. Levin’s changing patterns of assumption, projection, and understanding convey to the reader the foundations for the character arc that will result in his religious conversion.

Throughout the novel, Levin and other characters are frequently described as having “unconscious” attitudes and “involuntary” actions, so the presence of language drawing specific attention to missing self-awareness is not a very conspicuous or specific link between the death and birth scenes. But because there are other, more obvious similarities and contrasts in the descriptive elements of these scenes, the reader is already taught to relate the text in these parallel scenes, and may thus examine deviations between narratological elements when...

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