“Anna Karenina” begins with a phrase that is the psychological key of the work:
“All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
The pathos of the novel is not in the affirmation of spiritual unity between family members, but in the study of the destruction of families and human relationships.
The main problem of the novel is developed on the example of several married couples:
Anna + Karenin
Dolly + Oblonsky
Kitty + Levin
In all cases, the author still does not find the answer to his questions: how does a person live in a family and in society, can one confine oneself to the framework of the family? What is the secret of human happiness?
Dolly devoted herself entirely to the family and children, but did not find happiness, because her husband, Stepan Arkadievich Oblonsky, constantly cheats on her, and does not see anything wrong with that. For him, there is nothing unusual in treason, and although he loves Dolly and his children, he does not understand that happiness and normal family relationships cannot be built on lies. Dolly decided to save the family and the deception continues. The author emphasizes that it does not matter whether Stiva changes her further, the main thing is that the inner spiritual unity between people is broken, everyone lives by itself, and is guided not by the dictates of his own heart and not by the principles of Christian morality, but by secular laws that are in themselves contrary to natural morality.
In the outwardly harmonious family of Levin and Kitty, there is also no happiness, although it is built on mutual love. The closed world of marriage does not allow Levin to feel the fullness of life answers to questions about the meaning of life. It is not by chance that the image of a train appears in the novel, which has become a symbol of the whole epoch, which is moving steadily on a person, threatening his existence. Therefore, the family tragedy of Anna Karenina is a natural reflection of the spiritual and social contradictions of the time.
In the novel, there are other family stories: mothers Vronsky, Princess Betsy, etc. But not in one there is no “simplicity and truth”. The false life of aristocrats is contrasted with the life of the people, where real values still remained. The family of the peasant Ivan Parmenov lives much happier than the rich. But, as Levin observes, spiritual destruction has penetrated into the popular environment. He observes deception, cunning, hypocrisy among the peasants. The whole society is captured by inner spiritual rot, the most important moral principles are violated, which leads to a dramatic denouement.
The peculiarity of the novel’s composition is that there are two stories in the center of it that develop in parallel: the story of Anna Karenina’s family life, and the fate of the nobleman Levin who lives in the village and strive to improve the economy. These are the main characters of the novel. Their paths intersect at the end of the work, but this does not affect the course of events of the novel. There is an internal connection between the images of Anna and Levin. The episodes associated with these images are combined with each other by contrast, or by the law of conformity, one way or another, complement each other. This link helps the author to demonstrate the unnatural, fake human life.