Wednesday, April 2, 2014

War and Peace Characters

Several characters in Anna Karenina have said, thought, or done something that recall characters in War and Peace. I first noticed a resemblance between Kitty and Natasha at the ball. Kitty admires her marble shoulders and waits impatiently to be asked to dance. However, Kitty also has her target whereas Natasha was essentially open for business. In a way, Kitty almost seems like a rewritten, more complex version of Natasha. What do you think about this comparison? Do you notice any other similarities/differences?

I also recalled Pierre in the scene between Levin and Nikolai. Levin's spiraling self-degradation resembles Pierre's, but Levin's seems more dramatic, simple, and unproductive. In this way, I anticipate Tolstoy will develop this self-consciousness further as opposed to wallowing in it; in Pierre's case, that really is what Tolstoy does: wallow. Pierre is also present in Nikolai's self-searching. But Tolstoy describes this after the fact; Nikolai has now become an alcoholic. I see Pierre as split between these two characters, and it seems as if Tolstoy is going to take this naivete in a different direction than War and Peace. Do you think Tolstoy's messages about self-discovery have changed between writing the two novels?


  1. As Anna Karenina was written after War and Peace, I believe that the characters in W&P could very well be templates for the character descriptions and arcs in AK. Also, AK is very much a traditional novel, not meandering through history and historical theory as W&P did, and this allows for Tolstoy to focus more on character development.

    I agree that Kitty is a more complex version of Natasha. I think we see, especially at the conclusion of Part 2, that Kitty, although she tries to deceive herself, is aware of her own flaws in a way that Natasha was never able to admit to herself or to anyone. Kitty feels more real to me than Natasha, and I think that this reflects Tolstoy's maturity as a writer and as a person.

  2. To me, self-discovery seems to play a far more subtle role in AK than in War and Peace. This is not to say that the role of self-discovery has necessarily diminished in importance, but that self-discovery manifests less explicitly in AK than in War and Peace. After all, War and Peace seemed overflowing with epiphanies, while AK seems to focus far more on the actual, everyday actions of the characters. It is also interesting to note that the extreme conditions of war and imprisonment which prompted some of the most important epiphanies in War and Peace are wholly missing from AK. In this respect, AK seems to confine itself to the everyday, mundane, "peace" aspect of War and Peace. Moreover, the characters of AK, in general (perhaps excluding Levin and, to a degree, Nikolai), seem far less reflective than Pierre and Andrew.

    So it seems to me that AK focuses less on the process of contemplative, abstract self-discovery, and more on the actual processes of human life and social interactions within the realm of the everyday. Given what we have previously read by Tolstoy and his distaste for society life, this shift toward "everydayness" seems slightly disconcerting and ominous to me, as if the possibility of radical self-transformation and transcendence, tantalizingly present in War and Peace, is almost unthinkable within the setting of AK.

  3. I completely agree with you Logan. Especially since I have read Anna Karenina before without having read War and Peace, I see innumerable comparisons between these two works. Levin seems to reflect Tolstoy to a much greater extent than Pierre did. However, Pierre could also have reflected Tolstoy's younger, wavering mental state. Levin still reflects Pierre's impetuousness but has matured considerably, and, like Nicholas, knows how to spend his money.