Leo Tolstoy's Views and Ideas: Anna Karenina

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Leo Tolstoy dared to go against the contemporary orthodox ideas of his time in his quest of truth. He was a realist who didn’t believe in conventional norms of romanticization of literature which was prevalent in his time. He believed that painting a rosy picture of the society does nothing but create a façade in front of the readers and takes them away from the grim realities of the actual happenings of the society to a point of no return.

Tolstoy, in his diary wrote, “ Art is a microscope which the artist aims at the mysteries of his soul and which reveals these mysteries common to all ”[1]. This metaphorical microscope focuses on the infinitesimal of details that apparently are considered ‘unimportant’ and brings in front of the readers a hundred times enrichened version of the detail. 

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No writing of his other than the well acclaimed, ‘War and Peace’ pays impetus to the aforementioned point. This work of his didn’t portray any ‘hero-figure’ in it, neither did it revolve around any single plot . It is a tale of more than six-hundred odd characters who were mostly unrelated when studied superficially, but then they all share one thing in common; the fact that they were all in some way affected by the Napoleonic invasions. It displays very vividly the contrasts that life holds in store for people. It’s a book filled with binaries; love and hate, life and death, utopia and dystopia, etc.

Bringing out social contrasts and realities wasn’t the only thing he portrayed in his works. He held his own set of critical opinions on religion and moralities which was clearly seen across a multitude of his works. His works like, ‘ Chto takoye iskusstvo? ’ clearly put on display his inclinations towards communism. 

He contemplated over how masses were ‘enslaved’ and exploited by the elites of the society and how the decadent bourgeoise institutions like the value system and the state are mere ways of institutionalized exploitative relationship. Other works of his like, ‘Anna Karenina’ go to great depths to analyse orthodox Christianity, struggle of the labour class, communism and the moral standings of the feudal society. In Anna Karenina, 

Tolstoy goes to great extents to criticize the orthodox church of Russia, the hierarchical, thus, inherently classist bureaucracy, the state owned education system and even the peasantry. Due to his constant and brutal criticism of the orthodox Russian church, he was ousted from it and at one point was under the watch list of the state.

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