Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

Anna Karenina: One Story, Two Storylines, and the Importance of Oblonsky

Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

Anna Karenina: One Story, Two Storylines, and the Importance of Oblonsky

Article excerpt

Abstract

Scholars have debated whether Tolstoy's masterpiece, Anna Karenina is a work consisting of two separate stories or is one coherent story. Not disputed is that the work entails two distinct storylines: that of the Vronskys and that of the Levins. It is argued that Tolstoy's two distinct storylines are part of a single story, not two. As such, this article supports Tolstoy's original presentation of the novel and argues against those who assert that Tolstoy should have presented Anna Karenina in two separate novels. By demonstrating why Tolstoy presents the novel in this manner and how he weaves the two distinct storylines together, the necessity of having presented the novel in its original, unified form is underscored.

Key words: Anna Karenina; Tolstoy; Oblonsky

Perron, J. L. (2014). Anna Karenina: One Story, Two Storylines, and the Importance of Oblonsky. Studies in Literature and Language, 8(3), 1-4. Available from: http://www.cscanada.net/index.php/sll/article/view/4186 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968/4186

1. ANNA KARENINA: ONE STORY, TWO STORYLINES, AND THE IMPORTANCE OF OBLONSKY

The debate over whether Tolstoy's masterpiece, Anna Karenina is a work consisting of two separate stories or is one coherent story is perhaps as dated as the work itself. There are certainly two distinct storylines: that of the Vronskys (Anna and Vronsky) and that of the Levins (Kitty and Levin). This is not commonly disputed. What is disputed is whether it was appropriate for Tolstoy to place these two storylines within one novel. Tolstoy could have easily separated this one work into two novels. However, in order to present characters of vivid realism and to effectively convey certain messages, it was essential that Tolstoy include the two storylines within the same novel. Indeed, these two storylines are part of one story and one novel, as they should be.

The following demonstrates both why and how these two storylines are parts of one story. First, it will be shown how the merging of the two storylines was used by Tolstoy place emphasis on specific elements of the novel. These elements include the characters, the settings, and the magnificent yet tragic climax. Emphasis is focused on these elements through means of contrast. This is the 'why' of Tolstoy's meshing of the two storylines. Second, it will be shown that Oblonsky is the thread with which Tolstoy connects his two storylines. This is the 'how' of Tolstoy's meshing of the two storylines.

2. TOLSTOY'S REASONS FOR INCLUDING TWO STORYLINES

A nna Karenina has been praised for its brilliant characterization. The characters of Anna Karenina are read as "men and women of actual experience (Mirsky, 1958, p.764)." The chief characters of the novel have their traits accentuated when contrasted with other characters, namely characters from the opposing storyline with whom they seem to have little connection. Take for example, Levin. One cannot imagine Levin's morals, values, and struggle to uncover the meaning of life being as effectively presented without him being contrasted with characters from the opposing storyline. Levin's need for love and family is put into clear perspective when contrasted with Karenin's cold and rigid family life. Contrasted with Vronsky, Levin's connection to rural simplicity and pleasure in nature is impeccably conveyed to the reader. This is achieved by providing examples of contrasting lifestyles. Vronsky's (as well as Oblonsky's and Karenin's) aristocratic lifestyle provides a crisp contrast.

Anna is another character heavily relied upon to convey certain messages to the reader. This, as with Levin, is achieved by contrasting her lifestyle with those of other characters. In comparison to her sister-in-law Dolly, Anna is young, passionate and volatile. The reader is given this impression through Tolstoy's painting of Dolly as a tired and subservient wife, subject to the consequences of her husband's misguided actions. …

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