The quest for the absolute is ill-suited to the hypocritical conventions prevailing in upper middle class society at the end of the 19th century. Anna Karenina will experience it painfully. She who can neither lie nor cheat – the antithesis of a Bovary – can only feel a deep contempt for those who condemn her adulterous passion in the name of morality.
And first of all her husband, the perfect embodiment of the world to which he belongs, more concerned with appearances than genuinely saddened by Anna’s betrayal.
The drama of this intelligent, sensitive and attractive woman is not to have succumbed to the devouring passion that Count Vronski inspires in her, but to have sacrificed everything to her, her life as a woman, her life as a mother. Vronski, finally tired, will find the pleasures of worldly life. In her unfathomable loneliness, Anna, who cannot appear at her side, will have for only weapon humiliating jealousy to make live the last breaths of a love in perdition.
But her quest is in vain, she is a “lost woman”. Anna Karenine stages the Russian nobility, on which Tolstoy takes a critical look. The author opposes the calm happiness of an honest household formed by Lévine and Kitty Stcherbatskï to the humiliations and the setbacks which accompany the guilty passion of Alexis Vronski and Anna Karénine. Appeared in France for the first time in 1885, Anna Karénine marks the triumphant entry of Russian literature into European culture.