Anna Karenina | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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Anna Karenina | Quotes


All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 1

The narrator is pointing out that happy families are not that interesting, because they all follow the same blueprint for happiness, and there is not much difference among them. Unhappy families, however, have an individualized dysfunction. Contrariness and a refusal to live by necessary rules result in unhappy families, and each one has their own peculiar way of failing.


Marriage ... for Levin ... was the chief concern of life, on which all happiness depended.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 27

Levin goes home after his first rejection from Kitty and begins thinking about his own parents, who seemed to have a perfect marriage but whom he lost at a young age. He wants to recreate that dream of a perfect home and happiness. For him, marriage is absolutely necessary to fulfill the requirements of life, and although he will try to make the best of his situation, he will continue to desire marriage to Kitty.


I am going in order to be where you are ... I cannot do otherwise.

Vronsky, Part 1, Chapter 30

Vronsky says this to Anna when she steps off the train between stops on her way back to Petersburg. She has left Moscow early to get away from him because she knows they are in a dangerous situation. Vronsky sees Anna on the platform, and when she asks him why he has left Moscow, he freely admits that he is pursuing her. This answer both frightens her and makes her happy.


'He's a good man, truthful, kind ...' Anna said to herself ... as if defending him.

Anna, Part 1, Chapter 33

Anna says this to herself when she gets back from Moscow and looks at her husband with disappointment. She notices, for example, how his hat rides on his ears. She is defending her husband from the inner critic in her own mind. Part of her now is ready to admit that she cannot love him and never has. This realization has been made possible because the door to another relationship has opened.


Her look ... burned him through. He kissed his palm ... where she had touched him.

Vronsky, Part 2, Chapter 7

Vronsky has just finished talking to Anna at Betsy's salon, and she tells him that this pursuit must stop, although she also says she would not tell him to go away. After she leaves, Vronsky is so overwhelmed with passion that he continues to feel the touch of Anna's hand on his palm, and he kisses his palm in reverence.


This body deprived of life was their love, the first period of their love.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 11

The narrator says this after Anna and Vronsky consummate their relationship for the first time. Anna is overwhelmed by shame, and Vronsky feels like a murderer. What he has murdered is the idealistic promise of love. Their passion can never be as strong as it was in the lead-up to intercourse. In the days of courtship and seduction, they still had a perfect ideal of love in their minds and hearts and the sharp anticipation of the physical act. Now, that ideal has been turned into reality and has a sordid aspect to it because their love is illicit.


I love him, I am his mistress, I cannot stand you ... I hate you.

Anna, Part 2, Chapter 29

Anna says this to Karenin when he insists that she leave the arena after Vronsky falls off his horse at the steeplechase. Anna makes a spectacle of herself by showing her concern for a man who is not her husband. He once again tells her she acted improperly and again apologizes if his suspicions are unfounded. Anna is exasperated by him as well as by his response to her adultery, so she tells him bluntly how she feels, not thinking about how he might receive her communication.


I want to do something, and I've forgotten ... everything will end, that there is – death.

Levin, Part 3, Chapter 31

Levin is battling with existential angst—anxiety about existence—and specifically, mortality. He fears death, and when his brother Nikolai comes to visit him, Levin knows Nikolai's days are numbered. He listens to his brother breathing and coughing and thinks how silly it is to make plans when all that awaits him at the end of the road is his own death. After all, his days are numbered, too. It is simply a matter of degree.


Trample me in the mud, make me the laughing-stock of society, I will not abandon her.

Karenin, Part 4, Chapter 17

Karenin says these words to Vronsky after he forgives Anna as well as Vronsky for their adultery. He is ready to start over with Anna, take her baby, and even allow Vronsky to see her if that is what she desires. His forgiveness comes from the deepest part of himself, and he is no longer afraid of what people will think or whether he will seem like a fool. He knows that people like Vronsky think husbands are absurd. So he is telling Vronsky that no matter what he does, he (Karenin) will not abandon his wife.


The question of divorce in her situation is for her a question of life and death.

Stiva, Part 7, Chapter 18

Much later in the novel, Karenin has hardened. This happens after Anna refuses his divorce and then leaves him and her son behind so that she can be with Vronsky. In the meantime, Karenin has come under the strong influence of Countess Lydia. He is no longer ready to simply grant Anna a divorce and take the blame for the adultery. Stiva is reminding Karenin of his promise and tries to stress how important it is for Anna to be set free.


Levin was ... so close to suicide that he hid a rope lest he hang himself.

Narrator, Part 8, Chapter 9

Although Levin is happy with his marriage and his work, he still cannot discern any overall grand plan, and his intellect and heart both demand a reason for living—even a likely story will do. He is not about to kill himself, because he is not constitutionally made in such a way that he would commit suicide. But he feels despair and is probably being somewhat melodramatic when he says he had to hide the rope from himself.

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