Anna Karenina: Summary & Characters

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  • 0:04 Anna Karenina
  • 0:34 Synopsis
  • 4:02 Characters
  • 6:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

'Anna Karenina', by Leo Tolstoy, is a Russian novel that follows the life of Anna Karenina during the late 19th century. In this lesson, we will go over a brief summary and the main characters of the novel.

Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy tracks the life of aristocrat Anna Karenina and her tryst with Count Vronsky. The novel is staged in the late nineteenth century at the height of major political and social changes in Russia. Anna Karenina includes dozens of characters that portray a realistic account of Russian society during this period. In this lesson, we will summarize the novel and introduce the main characters.


Part 1

The novel opens with Dolly, Kitty's sister, discovering that her husband Stiva is having an affair. Anna Karenina consoles Dolly and convinces her to stay with her husband. Meanwhile, Kitty is proposed to by Konstantin Levin. She turns him down because she is in love with Count Vronsky.

Count Vronsky shows no interest in Kitty. Upon meeting Anna, he falls in love with and courts her even though she is already married. At a ball, Anna and Vronsky give each other so much attention that Kitty realizes she will never be with him. Anna returns to St. Petersburg followed by Count Vronsky, while Konstantin returns to his estate in the countryside heartbroken.

Part 2

Torn apart by Vronsky's affection for Anna, Kitty becomes ill and goes to a healing center. Kitty comes back to St. Petersburg feeling better and more prepared to be a wife.

Anna and Count Vronsky consummate their relationship. She struggles with her roles as wife and mistress. Anna becomes pregnant with Count Vronsky's child and tells her husband, Karenin, of the affair.

Part 3

Konstantin Levin focuses on his farm and tries to find meaning in life without Kitty. He watches as his brother falls deathly ill from tuberculosis.

Despite Anna being pregnant with his child, Count Vronsky refuses to commit himself to her. He struggles to choose between his love for Anna and his career goals. Anna rejects the option to stay with her husband; however, she doesn't know what to do since she cannot depend on Vronsky for support.

Part 4

Levin and Kitty become engaged.

Although Anna refused him, Karenin does his best to appear happy with his marriage in public. However, after becoming angry with the circumstances, he hires a divorce lawyer.

Anna becomes ill with puerperal fever and is on her deathbed when Karenin forgives her for the affair and says that she can be with Vronsky. Although Karenin was willing to give her one, Anna refuses divorce because she is afraid that she will lose her son.

Humiliated by his past actions and unwillingness to support Anna, Vronsky unsuccessfully attempts suicide. Anna and Vronsky travel together after she is better.

Part 5

Kitty and Levin are married and struggle with the reality of married life. Kitty becomes pregnant.

Anna and Vronsky return from Italy. After seeing her son again, Anna realizes how alone she feels. She becomes desperate to legitimize her relationship with Vronsky. Although Vronsky advises against it, Anna attends the opera, where she is treated insultingly. Vronsky is angry that she didn't listen to him, while Anna is furious with him for not understanding her social position. The two move to the countryside, but the relationship begins to deteriorate.

Part 6

Dolly visits Anna. She realizes that Anna's life is cold compared to her life. Anna confesses that Vronsky's interest is waning. At the same time, Count Vronsky feels suffocated by Anna's intense love, which becomes apparent when Anna requests he return home during a political convention.

Part 7

Upon realizing the relationship with Vronsky will not endure, Anna commits suicide.

Part 8

Count Vronsky enlists in the Russian military. Meanwhile, a peaceful Levin learns that the meaning of life is about living for the good of humanity.


Now let's go over some of the main characters in the novel.

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