One of the most complicated issues related to the difficulty of divorce is the case of children. Karenin has the right to grant her custody of her son without providing any financial support. Any other children born to Anna will legally belong to Karenin—which means that with Anna, Vronsky will never have an heir. Regardless of what we feel about the prudence of Anna and Vronsky's union, it's difficult not to empathize with their predicament.

At the time Anna Karenina was published, new models of marriage were emerging. Tolstoy knew social mores were starting to change and he may have even responded to them intentionally. However, the strict legal and moral barriers to handle the real-life situations of unhappy couples weren't able to keep up. One of the most scandalous and interesting things about Tolstoy's novel is that it proposes a nearly impossible situation for not only Anna, but both men involved with her. In some respects, her love affair would have been many a Russian man's worst nightmare. With his novel, Tolstoy probably kept some of these men up at night worrying over their own situations. It could be, in part, because of this that marriage laws finally relaxed, the ownership model of wife and children diminished, and members of most societies became free to follow their hearts.

Part Five Plot Point: Love Rushes In

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