Adultery in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina Term Paper

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Anna Karenina is one of the best novels in the world literature ever written as it's a very deep psychological, social and very moral novel that touches different aspects of the society's life and the role that an individual plays in the society. Besides it's a novel that describes social contradictions and contradictions that appear in one's soul when the individual decides to act contrary to social norms.

The Anna Karenina is one of the best works of the author as it continues several themes that were touched in the previous masterpiece "War and Peace" but if by the words of Leo Tolstoy he liked "the national idea" in War and Peace then in Anna Karenina he liked "the family idea." After all the changes Tolstoy made while writing the novel and after all changes put in the image of Anna Karenina, Anna remains to be at the same time " a person who is lost and a person who lost her nature" and at the same being a "guiltless" woman. She deviated her holly duties as mother and as wife, but she had no other way. Tolstoy justifies the behavior and actions of his heroine, but at the same time her tragic fate appears to unavoidable.

Writing the novel Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy always compared events and characters to those from War and Peace. And in Ana Karenina the world of good an beauty tighter interweaves with the world of evil and vice than in war and Peace. Anna appears as the person "who seeks for happiness and gives happiness," but on her way to personal happiness she meets the powers of evil which as the result cause her death. That's why Anna's destiny is full of dramatism. The feelings of loving mother and a loving woman -- two great feelings appear to be incompatible for her. She loves Vronski, but at the same time she feels love to her son and attachment to her husband Karenin, the father of their sun. Anna wants to be a beloved woman by Vronski and a good wife and mother to Karenin and their sun, but it's impossible. Here Tolstoy opens and justifies the motifs for the adultery she had committed. It was quite a deed for that epoch, even though it was an epoch of reforms and changes in the conservative Russian society.

Anna was unhappy in her family life, as she was married to the man who was twenty years older than she was. The whole process of their marriage would seem to be absurd to modern people, full of prejudices and in many ways explains her future behavior, the behavior of a woman who wanted happiness, freedom and love with her beloved person. Tolstoy writes that the initiator of marriage of Anna and Karenin was Anna's aunt who persuaded Karenin to marry Anna, because he had "compromised" Anna. Karenin for a long time hesitated but agreed on marriage pointing on the duty of honor that made him to make an offer to Anna.

Anna could not be happy in family life because she loved another man and wanted to devote herself to that feeling. The role of the madam from the higher society didn't suit her lively and beautiful nature, which was full of desire to live and enjoy life. Her adultery cannot be considered to be the senseless act of a vice woman, who cared only about her life and herself and who used other people, but it's a behavior of woman who became the victim and hostage of social prejudice, social snobbism and hypocrisy. The society who made her to marry a person whom she didn't love and the society, who rejected her later after she left her husband, is the culprit of her personal tragedy. Here comes a question: "may be it would be better if Anna took her situation as granted and would be faithful to husband as the characters of Tolstoy's previous work as Natasha Rostova, or Pushkin's Tatyana from Eugeniy Onegin, for whom the sense of duty and basically family duty was of the main value as it was the sense that made them to sacrifice their own personal happiness to family?" Probably not. It was a different time, and a different epoch even though that society lived by the norms of the former epoch. The description of characters their actions and behavior help us to understand, that society's norms were the breaks that prevented people from their self-realization and happiness they deserved. Vronski, Karenin and others the products of that epoch. Each of them loved Anna as they could, but their background, education and dependence upon public opinion, which they accepted, prevented them and Anna from happiness.

Anna was a strong person, as not everyone could afford to make a protest against the society in order to build her own love and happiness. But she fails, as Vronski is not ready to sacrifice his social position and exchange it on their love. By Anna's opinion he didn't know what love was. "Is a person able to build his own fortune on the misfortune of others? Happiness is not only in the pleasures of love but in the highest harmony of the soul."

The problems described in the novel would not seem to be a big and special case nowadays, as the modern society has a more liberal institution of marriage now. Any kind of the problem that concerns the family issues can be solved through the divorce, the process of separation of people from their mutual agreement. This was the main problem in Anna's case. Karenin let her go, but he kept their son, Vronski didn't want anything that would look like a family life as he was the opponent to marriage and wanted freedom. Anna could not take her son, she could not be happy with Vronski and at the same time she was the reason of the misfortune that now reigned in Karenin's house, her soul and touched other close people. She could not be happy after having left her husband and son, and after having brought misfortune to them as well as after having lost the respect.

So why was Karenin punished so cruel and so unjust? Why did he get such dirty treatment? And for the sake of what his wife Anna and the mother of his son did become the tormentor of her won and a tormentor for her close people?

The answer is obvious, and lies in the inalienable right of every human born which is "freedom and pursuit of personal happiness." It's a natural right and doesn't contradict to any ethics moreover Christian ethics. Contemporaries of Anna judged her by the Christian moral "do not commit adultery," but did anyone ask if there was love in her family? As by the morality, and moreover Christian morality the family has to be based on love, only on love as love is the key to the happiness. It was stated in old Hebrew bible, in Christian teaching and refers to any ethical teaching. That's why we cannot judge her behavior.

According to Leo Tolstoy the world was based on the family values. His whole literary works are written from this point-of-view. Showing the psychological contradiction and crisis in Anna's soul he states that the main value for a person is his family and love inside family. By the opinion of Tolstoy there is no love outside the family, otherwise there'll be only just contemporary pleasures nothing more, but the love and happiness can be achieved only in the harmony with a close person. Tolstoy doesn't justifies Anna, he gives this right to the reader to feel sorry and feel sympathy to the unhappy woman who became the victim of circumstances. Neither Karenin, no Vronski could understand Anna, moreover formally Vronski and Karenin were "right," because their actions were motivated by "common sense" and "prudence," while the actions and behavior of Anna was motivated by the feelings of her heart, that had nothing to do with "common sense." The conclusion about Anna's behavior has to be done by the reader, but at the same time Tolstoy shows an "alternative" in the image of Dolly, who submitted with unfaithfulness of her husband, but was unhappy. Anna who had courage to fight for her happiness appeared to be unhappy as well. The epigraph to the novel "I'll pay.." taken from Romans 12:19 shows the attitude of the author as he gives the write to punish Anna to her conscience, or if to be more abstract and definite he gives this right to God, as she had broken the family moral. The point of the author in the novel lies in the appreciation of the family values, to be more specific in appreciation Christian values of family moral but at the same time he speaks about emancipation of woman, shows that a woman has a right to be happy and choose what she deserves. Women had taken a special place in…[continue]

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