Anna Karenina

An Examination of Alcohol and Narcotic Use in Anna Karenina College

In a polemic against the use of alcohol and narcotics, Lev Tolstoy poses and then answers the question of why men stupefy themselves. He attacks these vices as escapes used to silence the human conscience and allow one to do that which moral convictions would otherwise prevent. Anna Karenina, written thirteen years earlier, provides a multitude of examples of the behavior of stupefaction which Tolstoy analyzes, but two characters rise above the rest in terms of comparison to Tolstoy’s writing on drugs and alcohol. The text explains in depth the mindset of the Oblonsky siblings which is presented in every instance of their substance use and abuse throughout the novel.

Tolstoy presents the idea that each person has two inner beings, the blind and physical being which carries out all actions “like a wound-up machine,” and the seeing, spiritual being which judges the behavior of the physical, acting as a conscience which either lines up with those actions or points away from them depending on their morality. He argues that the use of alcohol and narcotics has deeper roots than the answers which people often give, such as that use improves their mood or passes the time, or just that everyone does it, because if it were that simple,...

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