The Characters Of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina

1816 words - 7 pages

The Characters of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina

    By examining the character list, one immediately notices the value

Tolstoy places on character.  With one hundred and forty named characters

and several other unnamed characters,  Tolstoy places his central focus in

Anna Karenina on the characters. He uses their actions and behavior to

develop the plot and exemplify the major themes of the novel.  Tolstoy

wishes to examine life as it really is.  Tolstoy gives us a lifelike

representation in Anna Karenina by creating  characters, both major and

minor, that contribute to the sense of realism.


      The most striking feature of Tolstoy's minor characters is that

although they may only appear briefly, they still possess a sense of

lifelikeness.  When a character is introduced, Tolstoy provides the reader

with details of the characters appearance and actions that give a sense of

realism.  For example, the waiter that Stiva and Levin encounter at their

dinner, although a flat character is definitely presented in a manner which

allows him to have a sense of lifelikeness and fullness.  From the speech

patterns the waiter uses to the description of the fit of his uniform, one

is presented with the details that allow the waiter to contribute to the

novel in means beyond simply the presence of a minor character.  His

description and actions provide the novel with a sense of "real life".


      Another way in which Tolstoy gives the minor character a sense of

life is by making them unpredictable.  One sees this in the character of

Ryabinin.  When initially discussed,  the reader is told that upon

conclusion of business, Ryabinin will always say "positively and finally"

(p161).  However upon conclusion of the sale of the land, Ryabinin does not

use his usual tag.


        This tag would normally be characteristic of the flat, minor

character such as Ryabinin.


        However, Tolstoy wishes to add to the lifelikeness of even his

minor characters and allows them to behave as one would expect only major,

round characters.  The detail Tolstoy gives to all of his characters,

including the minor characters, contributes to the realism of both the

novel and the characters.


        Perhaps the most realistic of Tolstoy's major characters is

Konstantin Levin.  Throughout the novel, the reader witnesses the trials of

Levin's life and his response to them.  Unlike Flaubert, Tolstoy reveals

Levin in a manner which gives him a sense of roundedness and lifelikeness.

On his quest for meaning in his life, Levin is essentially a realist, just

as Tolstoy wishes to be in writing Anna Karenina.


      We first encounter Levin when he arrives in Moscow to propose to

Kitty Shtcherbatsky.  When Kitty refuses his proposal, Levin has been

defeated in the...

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