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The world of Tolstoys Anna Karenina is a world ruled by chance From the very opening chapters where a watchman is accidentally run over by a train at Moscows Petersburg station to the final climactic scenes of arbitrary destruction when Levin searches for Kitty in a forest beset by lightning characters are brought together and forced into action against their will by coincidence and sometimes misfortune That Anna and Vronsky ever meet and begin the fateful affair that becomes the centerpiece of the novel is itself a consequence of a long chain of unrelated events culminating Annas sharing a berth with Vronskys mother on her way to reconcile Dolly and Stiva in Moscow And yet as an epigraph to this seemingly chaotic world of chance event a seemingly amoral world that would seem to neither punish sin nor reward good Tolstoy chooses a quotation that comes originally from the book of Deuteronomys song of Moses Vengeance is mine I will repay Originally and somewhat narrowly thought to refer to Annas final ostracism from the upper echelons of society that punish her for her misdeeds the epigraph is the key to Tolstoys subtle and philosophically complex conception of morality that denies the existence of a universal and unavoidable justice and derives responsibility from the individuals freedom to create and then bind himself to laws Three of the novels characters Stephen Oblonsky Constatine Levin and Anna Karenina all in some way connected to the Shcherbatsky family serve to illustrate the various ways that Tolstoys individual can be or fail to be good the various ways in which a character can be moral immoral or amoral through the use of thought or reason to create necessity outside of the confused demands of a chaotic realityTolstoys world is indeed a servant to chance and the plot depends so heavily on coincidence that Anna Karenina taking into account the many elements of Menippian satire and Socratic dialogue that are integrated
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