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Anna Karenina
Leo Tolstoy




_____ 1. Which character is sometimes said to represent a less intense, more shallow version of Anna? -
    A. Princess Betsy
    B. Stiva
    C. Kitty
_____ 2. Vronsky attempts suicide because -
    I. he felt humiliated by Karenin at Anna's sickbed
    II. afraid that Anna might die, he was overcome with desperation
    III. this gesture serves to reinforce the drama and finality of Anna's suicide
    A. I only
    B. II only
    C. I, II, and III
_____ 3. Stiva sells the forest to Ryabinin for only 30,000 roubles -
    I. because he is ignorant on the subject of land value
    II. because he is not under any financial stress III. to express Tolstoy's fears that city people will ruin Russia
    A. I only
    B. I and II only
    C. I and III only
_____ 4. After visiting Anna and Vronsky, Dolly goes home feeling -
    A. jealous of Anna
    B. that her own life is perfect
    C. that imperfect as her life may be, she wouldn't trade it for Anna's
_____ 5. The set piece on Kitty and Levin's wedding serves to
    I. emphasize that Kitty and Levin will have a traditional life
    II. foreshadow Levin's spiritual awakening later on
    III. allow Tolstoy to present in minute detail a ritual he holds dear
    A. I only
    B. None of the above
    C. All of the above
_____ 6. Kitty's father describes Vronsky as one of St. Petersburg's -
    A. "finest horsemen"
    B. "gilded youth"
    C. "bravest soldiers"
_____ 7. One way in which Tolstoy lets us know that he is against the Russian war effort on behalf of the Slavs is by -
    A. putting it at the end of the book
    B. discoursing on it as an omniscient narrator
    C. presenting Vronsky and Stiva as participants in the campaign
_____ 8. The main function of Nicholas Levin is to
    I. represent a stereotyped intellectual
    II. underscore Kostya's fear of death
    III. let us know that Kitty is resourceful and calm in emergencies and that she has no horror of the natural processes of life
    A. I only
    B. I and III only
    C. II and III only
_____ 9. Anna told Karenin of her affair with Vronsky because she -
    A. could no longer live a lie
    B. wanted to hurt Karenin in any way she could
    C. wanted Karenin to order her to stop
_____ 10. Tolstoy is famous for -
    A. the tight structure of his novels
    B. the sweep of his stories
    C. his unusual metaphors

11. Anna Karenina is one of the most memorable characters in world literature. What makes her unforgettable to you? -

12. Both Karenin and Levin undergo dramatic religious struggles. Contrast these struggles and their respective outcomes. -

13. Tolstoy is famous for his set pieces. Pick one and discuss the ways in which it advances the plot, reveals character, and functions symbolically. -


_____ 1. Karenin represents -
    A. the consummate bureaucrat
    B. a man of considerable power and prestige
    C. a devoted father
_____ 2. Vronsky's defeat in the steeplechase and the subsequent death of his horse show us that -
    A. he "cracks" under pressure
    B. he is given to disastrous spells of egotism
    C. he is an unskilled horseman
_____ 3. Kitty refuses Levin's first proposal because she -
    A. considers Levin a brother figure
    B. is coquettish and wants to see how many offers she can attract
    C. is young, confused by her recent debut in society, and doesn't really know what she feels
_____ 4. Karenin's signature traits are -
    A. small, effeminate ears, heavy eyebrows
    B. cracking his knuckles, a high-pitched voice
    C. a nervous cough, rough, red hands
_____ 5. From the evidence in this novel, it seems that Tolstoy -
    A. favors arranged marriages
    B. abhors arranged marriages
    C. does not think that marriage is an important institution
_____ 6. When Levin proposes to Kitty a second time, he does so -
    A. boldly, directly
    B. by asking her father for her hand
    C. in a secret language only Kitty will understand
_____ 7. Levin's book on farming -
    A. is the hobby of a "gentleman farmer"
    B. is a doomed enterprise
    C. represents the Tolstoyan ideal of the harmony possible between physical and intellectual work
_____ 8. Tolstoy believes that women -
    A. have their proper place in the home as wives and mothers
    B. should have every opportunity that men have
    C. are morally inferior to men
_____ 9. Anna is frequently described as having curls escaping from her coiffure. It indicates that -
    A. she is careless about her appearance
    B. she is a slave to fashion
    C. her nature is irrepressibly passionate
_____ 10. At the beginning of the book, children are drawn to Anna; at the end, children -
    A. especially her own, are a source of pain to her
    B. are afraid of her
    C. are still drawn to her

11. Contrast Anna and Levin. -

12. Discuss Tolstoy's views of city and country life and the way he treats city and country in Anna Karenina. -

13. To what extent is Anna a victim, and to what extent is she guilty and responsible for her ruin?


  1. B
  2. C
  3. C
  4. C
  5. C
  6. B
  7. C
  8. C
  9. A
  10. B

11. Not only is Anna beautiful and vivacious, but she is mysterious. It is just about impossible for a reader to understand her completely. She hates hypocrites, yet can be cruel. She must break free of a suffocating marriage, but then all but suffocates Vronsky with her jealousy. Toward the end, she is devastated by loneliness, but cannot bring herself really to talk with Dolly, the only friend she has left. Yet we respect Anna, for she is brave and true to herself although such sincerity leads to a painful clash with her society. And we hurt for her, for she is so utterly, utterly lost. Anna touches sensitive points in all of us. She stirs our attraction to glamour and beauty, even as she arouses our anxieties and fears. -

12. Karenin wants to be "a good Christian," mostly to satisfy his ego. He almost makes it (take a look at the scene at Anna's bedside after she gives birth to her daughter). But he really wants revenge and uses religious dogma as a means to justify this. He has so little individual sense of right and wrong that he falls prey to a fake mystic (Landau) who gives him orders based on "divine messages." Levin's struggle is to overcome his horror of death and belief that death is an evil worked by an evil God. He reads, studies, and broods almost continuously. His illumination comes gradually, but he has several moments when a light seems to go on in his soul. His marriage and the birth of his son prepare him for his religious illumination (especially Kitty, and her intuitive acceptance of death and birth as part of a natural and blessed process), which comes after his discussion with Theodore, a peasant. -

13. The scything scene (Part III, Chapters 4-6), the steeplechase (Part II, Chapters 24-25), Kitty and Levin's wedding (Part V, Chapters 2-6), and the hunt (Part VI, Chapters 8-13) are the four major set pieces in this novel. The steeplechase reveals Vronsky's susceptibility to the flattering attention of others and the ways in which he relates similarly to Anna and his horse. It also foreshadows that he will prove responsible for Anna's death, as he was for Frou-Frou's.

The wedding scene lets us know that Kitty and Levin will live a traditional life. It also signals us that Levin is softening toward religion. The hunt points up the differences between Levin, Stiva, and Varenka regarding women and marriage, the meaning of hunting, and the relationship of the hunter to the hunted. It also emphasizes the different perceptions the three men have to peasants in general and peasant women in particular.

The scything scene emphasizes that Levin wants to have harmony between his physical and intellectual work, that he feels a partnership with the peasants, that he realizes he has a lot to learn from them. The scene is also so visually beautiful that it serves to glorify the hard task of scything. -


  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. B
  5. B
  6. C
  7. C
  8. A
  9. C
  10. A

11. Anna and Levin are both seekers. Anna's quest is for personal happiness; Levin's, for spiritual peace. Anna comes to ruin; Levin finds happiness and serenity. Consider what the fates of these characters tell us thematically. -

12. Think carefully about which scenes Tolstoy situates in the city and which scenes he situates in the country. Anna and Vronsky begin a mutual flirtation at a ball in the city; they consummate their love in the city; later, Anna is cruelly ostracized by her former friends during a performance at the opera. In the country, Levin establishes a revolutionary farming system and a relationship between landowner and peasant that is altogether new in Russia. Levin and Kitty's son is born in the country. And Levin's spiritual illumination occurs while he is walking in his fields.

Think also about the city characters and the country characters. Princess Betsy and her circle make up a hypocritical society. Landau, the fake clairvoyant, finds a foothold among the "notables" of urban society; he wouldn't have had a chance of fooling the peasants on Levin's estate.

Tolstoy believed that the land was Russia's most important source of wealth. He worried about the rapid growth of Russian cities and the increasing emphasis on urban values. Two scenes involving Stiva- a quintessential city slicker- express Tolstoy's anxiety. Stiva undersells his forest to Ryabinin, contributing to the devaluation of the Russian countryside. Stiva's job with the railroad will further jeopardize Russian farmland. These scenes illustrate what Tolstoy felt to be the ignorance of city people regarding the land and their desire to get rich quick at the expense of an ancient way of life. -

13. Anna is a victim of her society because she was forced into marrying Karenin, whom she did not love,- and because her society-approved marriage did not allow for her happiness; it only set her up to be a "respectable wife." When she was open about her affair with Vronsky, her society spurned her because she wasn't playing by their rules. Totally deserted by her society, she is virtually driven mad by loneliness. Anna was unable to make a clean break with Karenin (you could argue here that she was unable to escape society's guilt trip). Had she been able to leave her family altogether and marry Vronsky, she would have had a life in society. But there is something dark in Anna's nature. Her emotions are so strong, so extreme, and her nature is so totally governed by her feelings (rather than by thoughts) that her tenderness for Vronsky becomes manipulation.

[Anna Karenina Contents]


  1. Identify and discuss the ways in which Anna is victimized by her society. -
  2. Discuss the epigraph- "Vengeance is mine, I will repay"- and its relation to the events in the novel. -
  3. Middlemarch, Lady Chatterley's Lover, and Anna Karenina all deal with romantic triangles. Compare their strengths and weaknesses regarding characterization. -
  4. Discuss Tolstoy's use of interior monologue. Consider the ways in which he heightens drama and elucidates themes with this technique. -
  5. Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina both depict a woman's efforts to escape from an unsatisfactory marriage and a stultifying society. Compare the two. -
  6. Tolstoy makes plain his contempt for urban society. How? Cite specific incidents and characters. -
  7. Tolstoy is a master at irony. Discuss some of the most ironic scenes in the novel: Anna's deathbed scene, her ostracization at the opera, Dolly's feeling after visiting Anna that her own life isn't so bad. What do these ironies tell you about Anna's society? -
  8. Discuss the significance of the steeplechase set piece. Pay special attention to the way in which Vronsky relates to his horse. -
  9. What is Tolstoy's view on the practice of agriculture of Russia? How does he communicate that view to us in Anna Karenina? -
  10. What is the significance of Stiva's underselling his forest to Ryabinin? -
  11. It is often said that Russia is a major character in Tolstoy's novels. Discuss this in relation to Anna Karenina and any other novels by Tolstoy you have read. -
  12. Trace the decline of Anna's mental health. -
  13. Discuss the mowing scene and its significance. -
  14. Tolstoy is famous for his physical descriptions. Discuss. -
  15. What are Tolstoy's views on marriage and how do they bear on Anna Karenina? In what ways does he use the novel to express these views?

THE STORY, continued

ECC [Anna Karenina Contents] []

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