Study Help Essay Questions


1. Why do Tolstoy's characters have to come to terms with death in order to understand life? (See "General analysis," commentaries in Part 3.)

2. Discuss Tolstoy's philosophy in terms of the "natural life" of the country and the unnatural life of the city. (See "General analysis" and commentaries in Part 3.)

3. Why does Tolstoy attach equal importance to the everyday occurrences of individual life as to large happenings like war, politics, intellectual currents? (See subsection on "historical necessity" in General analysis: Mostly though, you must consider your own impressions of the novel itself.)

4. Try to describe Anna's tragedy in your own words. Consider her career if she remained faithful to Karenin and then consider the rewards of her guilty existence with Vronsky. Is there a right and wrong in her choice of destiny? Does Anna have a choice?

5. What is the significance of the scriptural quotation on the novel's title page: "Vengeance is mine and I will repay, saith the lord."? (See General Analysis.)

6. Consider the ironic significance of the following incidents: Anna's attendance at the theater (Part 5); Dolly's renewed attraction to her own life after she visits Anna (Part 6); the contrasting reactions of Levin and Vronsky to Vassenka Veslovsky (Part 6); the reversed roles of lover and husband while Anna lies ill (Part 4.).

7. If you have read Madame Bovary, compare Flaubert's treatment of marriage with Tolstoy's in Anna Karenina.

8. Discuss the epic qualities of Anna Karenina which made Henry James criticize Tolstoyan novels as "loose and baggy monsters." (See General Analysis.)

9. What is significant about Stiva's sale of the forest property to Ryabinin the speculator? (See Analysis in Part 2.)

10. What is the significance of Anna's deathbed scene? (See Analysis in Part 4.)

11. What is the significance of the horse race? (See Analysis in Part 2.)

12. What significance do the following characters have in the novel: Koznyshev, Varenka, Betsy Tverskoy, Lydia lvanovna, the old peasant of Part VII.

13. Discuss Anna's power of fascination and her capacity for cruelty that Kitty suspects in Part 1. (See commentaries in Part 1 and elsewhere.)

14. What characteristics do Anna and Levin share?

15. What characteristics do Vronsky and Karenin share?