Yet we will be reminded of a difference between what happens to Levin and what happens to Anna: "But Levin did not shoot himself or hang himself and went on living." (p. 789) We may be inclined to think that Levin keeps going because he is pretty lucky: he loves his wife, he takes pride in his son, and he is deeply attached to his farm. Anna, by contrast, was not as lucky. Who knows, maybe Levin, too, would have committed desperate acts had his situation been different and he was married to someone similar to Karenin and tempted by passion. But Tolstoy's message, in Part Eight, is that it's not luck but faith that is the answer. Levin finds this faith on the day the novel ends. The faith he finds is, in many ways, an affirmation of the life he has been leading anyway, but Tolstoy is telling us that had Levin not had this spiritual breakthrough he may have ended up like Anna. Levin finds that he had been living right all along, because he had been loving his neighbor rather than throttling him, because he had been remembering God and living for the soul rather than "the belly." (p. 795-7)

At this point, because the plots do interact, Tolstoy seems to be inviting us to apply this wisdom to Anna's plot. Levin's existential crisis gives us another possible perspective on Anna's tragedy. Instead of seeing them as being worlds apart (the faithful husband vs. the evil adulteress), we can see them as on the same path—both are seeking answers to the question "Why live?" and both wanting to find meaning in their life on this earth. Perhaps the main difference is that Anna failed to remember God until it was too late, the train was already upon her.

Examine character journeys and plot points in Oprah's Book Club guide to Anna Karenina.


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