Critical essay on anna karenina

It is less serious for a husband to stray than for a wife, since family unity depends on the woman.

Critical essay on anna karenina

The book floats in some charmed section of the lake of literary opinion where the ripples from modernism and the ripples from Hollywood overlap without merging. It is more admired than learned from. Anna Karenina couldn't be less like a conventional modern novel.

Instead of a barrage of metaphors describing things in terms of other things that they resemble, Lev Tolstoy seeks the precise word for the thing itself.

Instead of the solipsistic modern mode of events being experienced from the point of view of a single character, Tolstoy slips in and out of the consciousness of dozens of characters, major and minor.

At one point he tells us what a character's dog is thinking. Tolstoy doesn't believe in "show, don't tell". He likes to show and tell. The teller, the narrator of the book, is a formless, omniscient voice with no elaborate Rothian construct to justify his role. No first-person or free-indirect speech Critical essay on anna karenina.

Even while we're in a character's head, it's the narrator who recounts the character's experiences through liberal use of such unfashionable phrases as "she thought", "he felt" and "it seemed to him that". Tolstoy creates a space for the narrator's independence — the narrator is close enough to the characters to rely on them for his existence, but free enough to pass unchallenged judgment on their actions, and to tell us things about them that they don't know about themselves.

The most powerful passages are those where Tolstoy slows time down to note each thought, gesture and feeling of Anna and her lover Vronsky, with a third entity present — the narrator — not only lodged deep in the two psyches, but standing back to tell us the ways in which one is misunderstanding the other.

Each time I reread Anna Karenina, picking my way past the attics and cellars and rusting machinery of Tolstoy's obsessions and prejudices, a new layer of his craft emerges, to the point where, for all my admiration of Joyce, Beckett and Kelman, I begin to question whether the novel form isn't too artisanal a medium for the surface experimentation of the modernist project ever to transcend the flexing of space and time that apparently conventional language can achieve in the hands of a master.

I'd noticed before that Tolstoywhose characters spend so much time in Moscow and St Petersburg, barely describes these cities. Reading Anna Karenina again, I see that it's more extreme than that; urban buildings and landscapes are practically invisible, whereas the countryside is described in exquisite detail.

To Tolstoy the city is a static, artificial place. It is as if he does not believe cities are permanent, as though he feels that if he ignores them, they'll go away.

Critical essay on anna karenina

It turns out that everything Tolstoy cares about, everything he describes taking place outside the character's heads, is alive and moving, in the non-human world of dogs and horses and leaves as in the human world.

No human action is too small to be recorded: Karenin's knuckle-cracking, Anna screwing up her eyes, Vronsky touching the ends of his moustache. The characters are always smiling, frowning, blushing, twitching, fidgeting, touching, kissing, bowing, sobbing, and deconstructing these signs in each other.

Critical essay on anna karenina

They come to us alive with intentionality, describing themselves in movement, waltzing through the ballroom, trudging through the marsh after wildfowl, racing horses, cutting hay. As busily as Tolstoy's creations move through space, so plausibly they move through time.

How hard it is in narrative fiction, be it novel or film, to represent the chaotic reality of the passage of time, when the way a person acts or thinks one moment doesn't necessarily have a direct connection to the way that person acts or thinks 10 minutes later, or the next day, or for the rest of their life.

No other novelist I can think of takes the risks Tolstoy does with the readers' understanding of what his characters are by allowing the characters to be so true to the emotions of each particular moment, even when those emotions contradict the overall portrait.

The most odious characters are never beyond momentary redemption, and the most admirable characters must endure patches of vileness. Yet Tolstoy doesn't spare Levin, the character with whom he is most in sympathy. When Levin is out shooting with a friend at dusk and summons the courage to ask after Kitty, the young woman he loves but who turned down his offer of marriage, he learns that she's still free and is seriously ill.

At this moment of high drama and revelation, two woodcocks fly over, and he forgets about Kitty in the excitement of shooting the birds. It's not attractive for Levin to feel this schadenfreude towards the woman he wants to share his life with, or to have the overflight of a small game bird blot out all thoughts of her just when he's heard she might be dying.

But Tolstoy has the confidence to relay these secret moments of unlove, certain — rightly — that by being true to his weakness in one particular instant in time he will make Levin more real and human without poisoning the instants of time to come, when Levin will show himself more like the man he wants to be.

All Tolstoy's mastery of time, space and language come together in a single moment in the middle of the book, when Anna's estranged husband Alexei Karenin, a dry, stiff government minister, and her lover Vronsky, a handsome young cavalry officer, meet beside the bed where Anna lies gravely ill after giving birth to Vronsky's child.

Grief-stricken and ashamed, Vronsky is covering his face with his hands; Anna orders her husband, who is also weeping, to pull the hands away and expose her lover's face.

With that gesture, Anna effects a reversal in the status of the two men. Vronsky, who had despised Karenin because he wouldn't fight a duel, is now humiliated and dishonoured; Karenin, flooded with forgiveness for everyone, wins back Anna's respect. In that moment of time, with Anna seemingly dying, the transformation is quite real.

But time shifts, and the old reality comes back.Critical Essays Plot Structure and Technique in Anna Karenina Bookmark this page Manage My Reading List In the middle of his work on Anna Karenina, Tolstoy experienced his own moral "conversion" just as Levin does at the novel's conclusion.

Literature Commentary: Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy”s novel, Anna Karenina, upon its release received a mix critical reception, with Russian critics either condemning or applauding the novel primarily on its views of Russian society.

Anna Karenina is no Romeo and Juliet story of star-crossed teenagers unjustly destroyed by their elders' cruel laws, but a story of adults vexed by boundaries. It is the portrayal of a clash. “Anna Karenina” is, as one critic put it, a “cross-section of Russian life.” The book is essentially comprised of two stories: the story of young nobleman Konstanin Levin and his courtship of the young Princess Kitty Shcherbatsky; and the tragedy of Anna Karenina and her passionate adulterous affair with the charming Count Vronsky.

Feb 14,  · Essay on Anna Karenina Essay on Anna Karenina Upon reading the novel Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy one must undoubtedly notice that there are a great many pages and thus a great many bits of detail and facets of the storyline.

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