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The question of judgment and sympathies in Anna Karenina is one that every time I have read the novel seems to become more complicated and slung with obfuscation The basic problem with locating the voice of judgment is that throughout the novel there are places where we feel less than comfortable with the seemingly straightforward at times even didactic presentation of Anna and Vronskys fall into sin alongside Levins constant moral struggle As Annas story unfolds in its episodic manner within the context of the rest of the novel Tolstoy seems to be trying to make the fact of her guilt more and more clear to us at the same time though we have more and more difficulty in tracing out the specific locus of that guilt In a novel as consummately constructed as this one is we are tempted to look for places where the undercurrents of the text the places where the text takes on its own life and force run against or at least complicate the discernment of authorial judgment By closely examining Tolstoys treatment of Annas moral crisis as compared with his handling of Levin we might attempt to unravel the books rather layered and complex system of condemnation The novels epigraph sets a certain tone for us before we even begin reading the biblically inflected Vengeance is mine I will repay plants in our heads the idea that wrong will be done and punishment exacted Indeed we come across a wrong in the very first lines of the opening chapter in Stepan Arkadyichs dalliance with the French governess which has thrown the Oblonsky house into confusion1 Tolstoys descriptions of Stepan Arkadyich as a pleasant honest well-liked bon vivant seem at times to drip with contempt He is lazy and mischievous14 his life dissipated14 and the distributors of earthly blessings in the form of positions leases concessions and the like were all friends of his and could not pass over one
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