Discussion: Anna Karenina

*Contains slight spoilers*

            Dear Reader,

The novel Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy is something I have read lately. (The title is pronounced Anna CARE-A-NIN-AH, which was something I did not know until after I finished the book. It turned out that I had just spent the last few weeks going around and mispronouncing the name as Anna CARE-A-NEEN-AH, making me look like a complete idiot). Obviously, the book is a lot more important than just because it is something I have read. Hollywood is making a movie out of it staring Keira Knightley. Oprah also chose it as one of her books for her Official Book Club. From pop culture’s standpoint, that makes this book a big deal.

Beyond these two recognitions, this novel has been in countless lists of one of the greatest books of all time. From a literary standpoint, it’s kind of a really big deal. Having read it twice, I can see why it is considered such an important piece of literature. This book does what many book claim to do, but very few actually accomplish. This book manages to wrap virtually all of the human emotions into a narrative piece. There is love, sorrow, regret, jealousy, rage, depression, revenge, doubt, and hope. By common definition, it is a masterpiece. By my definition, it is a masterpiece.

It is hard to describe the plot of the novel. There are multiple plots going on at once, with many overlapping each other. The beginning introduces an affair and goes from there. I feel this is all one should know before going forward.

Another reason why it is difficult to transcribe the plot is because of the length of the book. In most English editions, the book is about one thousand pages. My copy was 976 pages. Of course, with this length, the book has amble room to spin through all of these emotions. In more ways than one, it would be a dull read if only a few of these emotions were used. One thousand pages of misery or one thousand pages of hope would begin to lose its edge somewhere around the first hundred pages or so. Readers tend to listen to what a book is telling them. If a book offers no reason to go on, most readers will pick up another book (unless this is required school reading, in which case the student will pick up Spark Notes). There are many great reasons to continue with Anna Karenina, though. I felt like the emotions represented in the book were palpable. Maybe it’s just my morbid nature, but the consideration of suicide, feels like something that offers endless engagement. With something as serious as suicide, it really is a consideration between life and death. Few things have the same serious weight attached to them. Though not expecting to find a self-help in any form, the ending of the novel offers a type of two-way emotional street, showing a life destroyed and a life redeemed. The two principal characters of the novel, to the best of their abilities, take many steps to control their circumstance and their fate. The primary message, if there is one, seems to be that, in the end, it is up to us which path we will take.

Reader, even if you have not read this novel (but if you have not, please do), what are your thoughts on the idea of happiness being up to the individual? Does each person get to decide how they chose to embrace their world? Or does circumstance reign over personal fates?


Jumbled Writer


4 Responses to Discussion: Anna Karenina

  1. I do believe that all people have the choice how they will embrace the world. We all will have problems in this world, but it is up to us how we will react to those problems. We can choose a positive or negative attitude. I like the quote, “If you can’t change your circumstance, then change your attitude”.

  2. Thank you for reminding me it’s time to read Anna Karinina again. It’s been a long time. I am amazed at all you got out of the story. I prefer Tolstoy’s War and Peace to this book – and I don’t know why. I agree – maybe both are masterpieces in which case maybe Tolstoy is one of the greatest writers of all time. I do agree that he was so capable of all ranges of emotions more than most writers.

    I do agree that happiness is up to the individual to only the extent that depends on whether you are a positive or negative person. (Cup half full/cup half empty). A negative person might find it much more difficult to discover happiness and might not even bother trying. Do you think in that case – their happiness might be their sadness? Do you think circumstances make you that way or are you born that way?

    • Dear Mary,
      Good question. I cannot say for certain, but I would imagine that early influences and circumstances could determine how a person sees life. If a person is surounded by more positive people, there is a better chance that this person will be able to see the good in situations, while the reverse is also true.

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