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Anna Karenina Notes on Characters

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Anna Karenina Major Characters

Anna Arkadyevna Karenina: A beautiful iconoclast eventually destroyed by her own insecurity. Anna goes through an evolution from being near perfection to being a character marred by adultery, jealousy and spite. The change is so dramatic that it is terrifying--we witness the disintegration of a human psyche. Anna thinks she is fighting a battle against an oppressive society, but really she is battling herself, ultimately losing the fight.

Konstantin Dmitrich Levin (Kostya): Levin is the hero of the novel. It is Anna who ultimately collapses and Levin who rises to see the light. Anna's collapse works to underscore the significance of the coherence of Levin's life. Levin finds harmony with the land and the peasants and works within himself to attain the faith he needs.

Count Alexey Kirilich Vronsky: Vronsky represents the epitome of society life. He has charm, wit, intelligence and money. He loves women, women love him, and colleagues are envious of him. Still, in this he is typical of his society. What makes him different is that he has an affair, and this is what causes him to be ostracized on some level. Some find him cruel, but others think he's simply confused. Vronsky could be criticized for not making a more stable situation for Anna. Her friends desert her; many think he could have stopped that from happening. Despite his ills, and his need to show off his money, he indeed loves Anna and never considers leaving her, even when her company becomes increasingly difficult to enjoy. He ends up as the more mature one in their relationship.

Prince Stiva Arkadyevich Oblonsky: Stiva is a charming man. He is quite the host and makes acquaintances easily. Most in society would speak highly of him. Yet Stiva, like Vronsky, exists purely for money. Living the high life for so many years has tapped his personal account, and he therefore begins using Dolly's inheritance to pay off gambling debts. There is little to commend in Stiva's character. He is sweet and sentimental, but deceitful and unfaithful to his wife. Much like his sister, Anna, he is guided by his wayward passions.

Princess Darya Alexandrovna Oblonskaya (Dolly): Dolly connects everyone's lives. She is Kitty's sister, Anna's sister-in-law, and Stiva's wife. She is the typical betrayed wife whose husband cheats on her, yet a devoted mother who nevertheless raises fine children. She is strong in that sense. Her husband's betrayal makes her think she is no longer attractive, but she moves on with her life and stays true to him. Dolly copes with the few options she has in an already defined society. She becomes unhappy but doesn't make everyone feel bad for her. Dolly is the only one who remains a friend to Anna when everyone else deserts her. Tolstoy doesn't focus on Dolly very seriously, but she appears as a unique heroine in her own right.

Alexey Alexandrovich Karenin: Karenin starts off as a society man, obsessed with superficial appearances and money. He resists his passions, however, and instead does what is right. That the sexual drive in his marriage fizzles doesn't bother Karenin; he loves Anna because she is his wife and that is how it should be. He is a faithful husband and follows every law. This trait becomes harmful when Karenin learns of his wife's affair. He is concerned more with his pride and honor than with his or Anna's personal happiness. All of his actions are motivated and engendered by society. In the end, Karenin is completely manipulated. He fails in his efforts to find Christianity and becomes the victim of a fake mystic who tries to further distance him from Anna.

Princess Catherine Alexandrovna Shcherbatsky (Kitty): Kitty is the representation of everything a woman should be. She manages to strike a perfect balance between the roles of wife and mother, and she brings faith and understanding to her husband, Levin. Undergoing a drawn-out birth process in the book, she shares Tolstoy's appreciation for the life-death cycle, and wants to play her part in contributing. She is intelligent and faithful to God.

Minor Characters

Seriozha: Son of Anna and Karenin. His mother is an adultress and abandons him. He is told his mother has died, but she suddenly returns to talk to him, shocking the young boy.

Prince Shcherbatsky: Kitty's father.

Princess Shcherbatsky: Kitty's mother.

Nicholas Levin: Konstantin Levin's brother. He is sick and eventually dies, soothed by Konstantin Levin's wife, Kitty.

Countess Lydia Ivanovna: Karenin's friend, a mystic Princess who tries to convince Karenin that he has religious beliefs and faith. She is a social queen and a fraud.

Elizabeth Fedorovna Tverskaya (Betsy): A society lady who is cruel to Anna by trying to attract Karenin, and by trying to make society people publicly disapprove of Anna.

Mitya: The newborn son of Kitty and Levin.

Countess Nordston: A shallow friend of Kitty's, a high society lady who works to make Anna's life miserable.

Mary Nikolaevna (Masha): Girlfriend of Levin's brother, of whom Levin disapproves, since she is not legitimate.

Sergey: Levin's half brother, who hardly even appears in the book.

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