1. Talk about your initial perceptions of Leo Tolstoy as a writer and his sweeping novel Anna Karenina. What frightens or excites you about reading it?

2. Talk about the first sentence of the novel. "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Do you agree with its assertion?

3. Early in Part One, we meet the Oblonsky family in the middle of a very tumultuous situation: Stiva has admitted to his wife Dolly that he has had an affair after she found a letter revealing his secret. What are your first impressions of Stiva, Dolly and their household?

4. In Chapter V, we are given background into Stiva's character—he is described as "liked by all who knew him." Does he seem likable to you? Why or why not?

5. Talk about your first impressions of Levin and your thoughts on his friendship with Stiva.

6. When we meet Kitty, she is tangled in an interesting web of courtship with two men. Do you get the sense that Kitty will make a good decision for herself? Do you feel she acts "rightly" towards Levin? What does the author say that's interesting about each of the men and Kitty's feelings about them?

7. Talk about the family traditions discussed in the first part of Anna Karenina. Look carefully through the text and pick out at least five that seem to be particular to this time and culture.

8. Do you feel Anna's relationship with her brother and his wife Dolly is a good one? Discuss this dynamic and how you think it may play out as the book progresses.

9. Talk about the ball and the way Tolstoy writes about the interactions between Kitty and Vronsky, and Anna and Vronsky.

10. What do you learn about Anna's family life at the end of Part One that seems significant? How is that reinforced by the details the author chooses to show you about her marriage and home?

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1. Kitty's illness frames Part Two. What do you notice about it in particular? What do you attribute her decline in health to, and why?

2. The Shcherbatsky sisters spend time together in this portion of the novel. What do you think is interesting about their relationships? How would you assume the way they treat each other is in keeping with their society?

3. Talk about Anna's friendship with Princess Betsy. Why are they fond of each other, and what important roles do you see them playing for each other?

4. In Chapter IV, there is a statement about Vronsky that goes, "the role of a man who attached himself to a married woman and devoted his life to involving her in adultery at all costs, has something beautiful and grand about it..." (p. 128) What do you find interesting or intriguing about this statement? Do you think the author truly believes it—and if not, why does he say it?

5. Spend some time discussing the courtship and interactions between Vronsky and Anna. What do you find to be unique about the way they talk to each other? Do you recognize it as something you would call "love?"

6. Do you get the sense that Anna truly feels guilty about the actions she has taken with Vronsky? If not, why do you think?

7. Stiva and Levin are friends, but they seem to be very different kinds of men. What are the three most obvious ways in which they look at their life from different angles? Find quotes to support your point of view.

8. Vronsky is a Count with a military background—a very dashing figure of manhood. In what ways is he a worthy and appropriate lover for the passionate Anna Karenina? In what ways does he potentially fall short in this role?

9. Society—what it means to be a part of high society or operate successfully in society—is discussed at length in Part Two. What do you feel you have discovered about the way Russian society used to work. How does it seem different from your life today?

10. When Kitty tells Varenka at the end of Part Two that she will never marry, do you believe her?

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1. Spend some time thinking about and talking about Levin's brothers, Nikolai and Sergei. How do they come together to form a family? In what ways to they challenge each other to make good choices and live good lives...and in what ways to they seem to hinder this process for each other?

2. What do you like about Levin's nurse and housekeeper Agafya?

3. How do you feel about the fact that Levin has taken on the work of a laborer, mowing right along with the muzhiks? How does this endear him to you as a character?

4. Levin's brother Sergei comes to visit him in the country. What do you think about their interactions? Do you get the feeling that one or the other of them is a stronger or more "noble" man? What specifically gives you that impression?

5. On Page 277, Levin and Kitty see each other for the first time after the debacle of his initial proposal. Tolstoy writes, "There were no other eyes in the world like those. There was no other being in the world capable of concentrating for him all the light and meaning of life." What do you think of this passage, and Levin's feelings towards Kitty despite all that has passed between them?

6. What do you think about the fact that Karenin considers and rejects the possibility of a duel with Vronsky for Anna? Do you think the fact that he initially decides on divorce instead is reasonable?

7. Trace the ways Anna has thought of her affair with Vronsky up to this point. Discuss what Anna says makes her happy and unhappy about her situation. Do you think she is being realistic or naive?

8. Do you feel Anna's relationship with her brother and his wife Dolly is a good one? Discuss this dynamic and how you think it may play out as the book progresses.

9. On Page 302, Vronsky is described as a man who "hated disorder." If this is the case, why do you think he allows such a disorderly situation as his affair with Anna comes to fruition? Think about the dichotomies set up by the author with regard to their passionate infidelity.

10. Both Stiva and Karenin are pillars of Russian society, and shown to be very adept at their jobs and in working with people. Is this interesting to you—and if so in what ways? What do you learn about the Russian business/diplomatic world from Karenin and Stiva?

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1. Now that you've gotten to know Vronsky a bit more, what do you think of him? Do you think he makes a good match for Anna? Why or why not?

2. Reflect upon Karenin's predicament. He can't easily divorce his wife, yet she has moved beyond the pale of his influence. If he were to handle the situation in a morally upstanding way, what would be his best course of action?

3. In Part Four, suddenly a lot of the consequences of infidelity come to light. Why do you think Tolstoy chose to put them into the novel so explicitly? What are his motivations for telling so much of Karenin and Stiva's stories?

4. What do you think of Stiva's final counsel to Karenin on pages 430–432? Analyze ways in which this is similar and different from the counsel Anna gives to Dolly at the beginning of the novel on pages 68–70.

5. We learn more of the things Kitty and Levin seem to have in common during this section. Do you think they make a good couple?

6. How do you feel about the details that surround Kitty and Levin's successful courtship? How is it different from the courtship earlier in the novel?

7. At the beginning of the novel, we learn that Anna has a very close bond with her son Seryozha. Talk about what it means for her to leave him in order to be with Vronsky.

8. Discuss the conversation between Vronsky and Karenin on page 414. What do you learn about the two men in the course of it?

9. Think about the interesting, dreamlike passage after the race where Vronsky struggles with sleep on pages 416–17. His "strange, mad whisper" is "unable to value, unable to enjoy; unable to value, unable to enjoy." What do you think this might mean in the larger context of his relationship with Anna or his life?

10. What do you think about Stiva's meeting with Betsy? How has your view of Stiva has changed throughout Part Four? If your view of him hasn't changed, how have his actions confirmed your initial thoughts of him?

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1. Talk about the wedding. How were the customs then different from weddings today? What seemed familiar to you? Were there things that surprised or confused you—if so, what?

2. Now that Anna and Vronsky have fled to Europe, what do you think of them as a couple? Do you feel Anna has flourished now that she has love in her life? If not, why do you suspect she hasn't?

3. In Part Five, both Vronsky and Levin are described as being "not as happy as they expected to be." From what you know of them, do you think their expectations were realistic?

4. Discuss the way Kitty and Levin fight. How is their way of communicating different from the way Anna and Vronsky or Stiva and Dolly disagree?

5. How do you feel about the custom that would prohibit Kitty from visiting Nikolai Levin because of his relationship with Marya? What is your impression of Marya as a "fallen woman?"

6. Preparations for death play a big role in Part Five. Who do you feel handles Nikolai's final days well and who, if anyone, does not?

7. Talk about Chapter XX, the only chapter in the novel with a title. Why do you think Tolstoy titled this chapter? In what subtle ways do you feel this section is different from the rest of the book? Also, be sure to talk about how the chapter ends.

8. What is your impression of Countess Lydia Ivanovna?

9. We get a glimpse of Seryozha in this section. As a product of Anna and Karenin, in what ways does he seem similar to each?

10. The more you learn of Anna as a mother, what are your thoughts? What do you think about her attitude towards the baby, and how do you feel about her reunion with her son? If you are a parent, can you imagine making the choices Anna has?

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1. When you heard that Dolly was spending the summer with Kitty, what was your first thought? What is your impression of the relationship between the two?

2. Much of this section is focused on the women of the novel. Name the three most important things you feel you learned about Russian women, women in the 19th century or women in general from Part Six.

3. Do you feel that Levin's jealousy over Veslovsky's amorous attentions towards his wife is in character?

4. Talk about the authentic period details in this section—Levin's estate, the shooting "contests," the muzhik cottages and the country in general. What did you find the most interesting or intriguing about them?

5. How do you see Levin's philosophies about his life and land in Part Six to be different from the way he thought of things before he married Kitty?

6. What do you think of Dolly as a mother to her somewhat unruly children? What seems similar or different about Dolly and Kitty in their approaches to motherhood?

7. Talk about Dolly's visit to see Anna. What do you think of Anna's "secret" and her reasons for keeping it?

8. Has Anna and Vronsky's love affair grown healthier now that they are away from the prying eyes of society? Do you feel they are still in love with each other?

9. Think about Levin's visit to Moscow during Kitty's confinement. How does he seem out of place in the big city? What do you learn about his philosophy that seems to be important?

10. At the end of Part Six, Anna and Vronsky settle in Moscow expecting of a divorce from Karenin. Knowing what you know, do you expect him to grant it?

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1. What did you think when you learned Levin was a writer? Discuss the similarities between his character and what you know of Tolstoy.

2. When Levin and Anna finally meet, what did you think of their interaction? Is it as you expected it might be, or different? How do you feel about the fact that Levin pities Anna?

3. Talk about the way that Levin's life seems to lose purpose when he goes to Moscow. How does this relate to his happiness at other times? What messages does the author seem to be sending about city life?

4. Discuss Levin's fascination with Kitty's process of childbirth. Does this seem like a normal reaction to you?

5. Stiva's financial circumstances worsen as the novel progresses. How do you feel his choices with money mirror his other choices or his morality?

6. What do you think about the fact that Seryozha has grown to consider his memories of his mother "shameful?" What impact do you expect this has on Karenin and Anna?

7. At the beginning of Chapter XXIII, Tolstoy  writes: "In order to undertake anything in family life, it is necessary that there be either complete discord between the spouses or loving harmony." (p. 739) Do you agree?

8. Talk about Anna's extreme jealousy. Do you feel it is founded, or is it a reflection of other things going on in her life?

9. Discuss, with as much candor as possible, your feelings about Anna's death. Talk about her reasons for doing it, her choices surrounding it, and what you expect the reaction to her death to be.

10. Think about the way Tolstoy  framed Anna's death, and the actual passage in which she dies. What strikes you about them?

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1. Were you surprised this part began talking about Sergei's book, after the dramatic conclusion of Part Seven? Talk about why you think the author made this choice.

2. Do you agree that even the death Anna chose was "mean and low?" (p. 778) What were your initial thoughts about how Vronsky's mother says he reacted to it? Did anything he says to Sergei change your opinion?

3. Vronsky says, "As a man, I am good in that life has no value for me." (p. 780) Do you believe this statement from him? Do you feel life ever held value for him—even while Anna and he were happy?

4. Talk about Levin's return to his land and his struggles to find meaning in his life. Was this something you could relate to? If so, in what ways?

5. How do you feel about the fact that Dolly and her children are now also in Levin's charge? How does Dolly's example as a mother affect Kitty and Levin's choices as parents?

6. As the book closes, war looms. Trace the ways each male character seems to use this impending crisis, and the new responsibilities he has in the face of it, to his advantage.

7. In the end, how do you feel about Levin's relationship with Kitty? Are they a happily married couple? Thinking back on the passage that opens the novel, would you think they are an example of a happy or unhappy family?

8. What do you think about the final passage, where Levin's ultimate life philosophy is revealed?

9. Go back through the book and find your three favorite passages—the ones you remember the most clearly. How did they touch you? How do you feel Tolstoy's writing relates to who you are and how you live?

10. Now that you've experienced each character's journey fully, which character do you feel you identify with most...and why?

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