Anna Karenina: Top Ten Quotes

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  1. "All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" (1). This is perhaps the most famous quote from Tolstoy.  It is the first sentence in Anna Karenina and gives the reader a glimpse of what the entire novel is about, as it follows the stories of three married couples and their happiness or unhappiness.

  2. "It cannot be.forgive me" (48).  Kitty answers this way to Levin's marriage proposal.  She believes that she will marry Vronsky and must refuse Levin.  Levin remembers this statement of Kitty's long after she says it, but in the end they are married and live happily.

  3. "'Everything is at an end, and that's all,' said Dolly.  'And the worst of it is, you understand, that I can't leave him: there are the children, and I am bound.  Yet I can't live with him; it is torture for me to see him'" (67).  Dolly says this to Anna about her marriage to Oblonsky after she finds out about his affair with the governess.  It gives the reader a glimpse of her position and shows the disparity between men and women and their status in marriage, as it is more acceptable for men to have affairs than women.

  4. "'Do this for me: never say such words to me, and let us be good friends.' These were her words, but her eyes said something different" (139).  Anna says this to Vronsky after he yet again tells her of his love for her.  She is still trying to struggle against her feelings for him, but he can tell when she makes this statement that she is indeed in love with him.

  5. "'I must think it over, come to a decision, and throw it off,' he said aloud.  'The question of her feelings, of what has taken place or may take place in her soul, is not my business; it is the business of her conscience and belongs to religion" (143).  This quote from Karenin as he thinks about approaching his wife on her improper behavior gives the reader insight into his character.  He does not handle Anna's affair in a way that is good for either of them, and she feels that he is more concerned about what Society thinks than about her or their marriage.

  6. "'No, you were not mistaken,' she said slowly, looking despairingly into his cold face.  'You were not mistaken.  I was, and cannot help being, in despair.  I listen to you but I am thinking of him.  I love him, I am his mistress, I cannot endure you.  I am afraid of you, and I hate you. Do what you like to me'" (212).  Anna admits to Karenin that she has been having an affair with Vronsky.  One would think that this would be a great changing point in the novel, but Karenin decides that he will try to put an end to the affair and put forth the appearance that their marriage is fine.

  7. "She felt that, insignificant as it had appeared that morning, the position she held in Society was dear to her, and that she would not have the strength to change it for the degraded position of a woman who had forsaken husband and child and formed a union with her lover; that, however much she tried, she could not become stronger than herself" (293).  Anna's need for Society and for her position before she started her affair becomes very important to her after she loses them when she has forsaken husband and child.  This is one of the main reasons for her problems with Vronsky and why she feels such desperation at the end of the novel.

  8. And death, as the sole means of reviving love for herself in his heart, of punishing him, and of gaining the victory in that contest which an evil spirit in her heart was waging against him, presented itself clearly and vividly to her (744).  This is one of the times that Death becomes forefront in the novel.  It is an important theme in the novel, and here the reader sees Anna think of it as a way out for her.  Other characters, such as Levin and Nicholas also think about or fear death.

  9. You...you will repent of this! (746).  Anna says this to Vronsky after one of their worst fights.  After this he leaves to see his mother, and after trying to contact him she becomes desperate and throws herself under a train.  He remembers this statement of hers after her death.

  10. I looked for an answer to my question.  But reason could not give me an answer-reason is incommensurable with the question.  Life itself has given me the answer, in my knowledge of what is good and bad.  And that knowledge I did not acquire in any way; it was given to me as to everybody, given because I could not take it from anywhere (791).  After his brother's illness and death, Levin is preoccupied with thoughts of death and of the meaning of life.  In the end of the novel he finds that he believes in the existence of God and finds meaning in his life.

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