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Author Study: Leo Tolstoy Curated by Grace Xu '19

Theme: Family happiness is one of the highest human ideals. 


1) Kitty and Levin 

Levin’s longing for marriage/family

“The house was big, old, and Levin, though he lived alone, heated and occupied all of it. He knew that this was foolish, knew that it was even wrong and contrary to his new plans, but this house was a whole world for Levin. It was the world in which his father and mother had lived and died. They had lived a life which for Levin seemed the deal of all perfection and which he dreamed of renewing with his wife, with his family...He was unable to picture to himself the love of a woman without marriage, but he first pictured the family to himself and only then the woman who would give him that family...for Levin [marriage] was the chief concern of life, on which all happiness depended.” (Part I, Chp. XXVII, pg. 95)

2) Dolly and Stiva

Conflict over discord from affair

“Darya Alexandrovna was spending the summer with her children in Pokrovskoe at her sister Kitty Levin’s. On her own estate the house had completely fallen apart, and Levin and his wife had persuaded her to spend the summer with them.” (Part VI, Chp. I, pg. 551)

Dolly’s pride in her children

“But these troubles and anxieties were for Darya Alexandrovna the only possible happiness...But besides that, however painful the mother’s fear of illnesses, the illnesses themselves, and the distress at seeing signs of bad inclinations in her children, the children themselves repaid her griefs with small joys. These joys were so small that they could not be seen, like gold in the sand, and in her bad moments she saw only griefs, only sand; but there were also good moments, when she saw only joys, only gold...she could not but tell herself that she had lovely children, all six of them, each in a different way...and she was happy in them and proud of them.” (Part III, Chp. VII, pg. 262)

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




Joy of marriage

“He thought that his engagement would have nothing in common with others, that the ordinary conditions of engagement would spoil his particular happiness; but it ended with him doing the same things as others, and his happiness was only increased by it and became more and more special, the like of which had never been known and never would be...he was the happiest man in the world becasue his fiancée was the height of perfection. And Kitty felt the same.” (Part IV, Chp. XVI, pg. 407)

3) Anna and Vronsky

Tension in the love triangle - lack of happiness

“The Karenins, husband and wife, went on living in the same house, met every day, but were completely estranged from each other. Alexei Alexandrovich made it a rule to see his wife every day, so as to give the servants no grounds for conjecture, but he avoided dining at home. Vronsky never visited Alexei Alexandrovich’s house, but Anna saw him elsewhere and her husband knew it. The situation was painful for all three of them, and none of them would have been able to live even one day in that situation had they not expected that it would change and that it was only a temporary, grievous difficulty which would pass.” (Part IV, Chp. I, pg. 353)

Anna’s despair over Seryozha

“For Anna one of the objects of the trip to Russia was to see her son. Since the day she left Italy, the thought of seeing him had not ceased to excite her. And the closer she came to Petersburg, the greater became the joy and significance of this meeting for her...The thought of her son had never left her for a moment” (Part V, Chp. XXIX, pg. 530)