Vengeance is Mine: Levin’s Obscured Faith Journey in Anna Karenina

HomeArticlesVengeance is Mine: Levin’s Obscured Faith Journey in Anna Karenina

It is often said that Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina begins with one of the most famous first sentences in world literature: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”[1]  Interestingly, this oft-spoken statement is incorrect; this sentence is not actually the first sentence of the novel.  The first sentence of the novel is the epigraph which reads, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.”[2]  It might, therefore, be more appropriate to say that the most well-known first sentence in world literature is, ironically, preceded by the least well-known actual first sentence in world literature. Aside from this interesting irony, at least two interesting questions stem from Tolstoy’s use of this seemingly mysterious epigraph.  What is its meaning?  Why did Tolstoy not provide attribution?

It may be safely assumed that Tolstoy did not include this epigraph capriciously. In fact, the use of the epigraph was rare at this point in Russian literary history.[3]  Indeed, Tolstoy himself insisted that he chose this epigraph, “. . . in order to explain the idea that the bad things man does have as their consequence all the bitter things that come not from people, but from God, and that is what Anna Karenina experienced.”[4]  Thus, while some readers may choose to read this novel in a manner which is more sympathetic to Anna, Tolstoy made it clear in this statement that Anna’s tragic fate is a consequence of her behavior.

This then begs the question: why did Tolstoy not provide attribution to this epigraph?  One suggestion is linked to the fact that the epigraph has two potential sources and therefore two possible interpretations.  The source based in Deuteronomy (32:35) is condemnatory; while the Pauline source (Romans 12:19) is much more forgiving.[5]  Is Tolstoy purposefully compelling the reader to reflect upon these two sources in order to advance a deeper understanding of divine punishment?  Perhaps.

It has also been suggested that the epigraph can be understood as a reflection of Anna’s desire to have vengeance upon Vronsky by committing suicide.[6]  Indeed, it seems unlikely that Tolstoy would attach Anna’s name to the epigraph so as to not provide an overly heavy-handed clue as to the future of Anna’s sentiments.  This paper suggests yet another option.  In keeping with the above-mentioned Tolstoyan statement, it argues that Tolstoy very much wanted to write a novel with a traditional moral message.  At the same time, he did not want the novel to sound overly moralistic.  After all, who wants to read priggish novel?

What Tolstoy created, of course, was a novel that is gripping in its depiction of the drama experienced by serious individuals who seek love in a largely loveless cosmopolitan society.[7]  Anna and Levin are not only serious individuals who seek love, but they desire to live meaningful lives.  This is what lures the reader into the story.  In essence, Tolstoy initially captures the reader with Anna’s passionate and scandalous romance.  It is a romance that seems “noble” to many readers in so far as Anna desires nothing more than true love at any cost.   At the same time, Tolstoy slowly unveils the very different journey taken by Levin.  Because his journey is so very different than that of Anna, the reflective reader is inevitably forced to resolve the question as to which of these two characters is the true hero of the novel.

Tolstoy meant for the epigraph to be a conceptual key to this question.  It is the key in so far as the main thesis of Paul’s Letter to the Romans involves a moral journey.  In it, Paul argues that righteousness and justification are primarily based in faith.  It is no coincidence that one of Levin’s main struggles in Anna Karenina involves his struggle with faith.  In essence, while Anna’s act of adultery plays an important role in the novel, when it is examined this light, Levin’s faith journey emerges as the novel’s main thesis.[8]

In essence, Anna Karenina is Tolstoy’s re-writing of Paul’s Letter to the Romans.  Tolstoy accepts Paul’s basic arguments that righteousness and justification are based upon faith and Mosaic/Christian Law.  He fundamentally differs with Paul, however, with regard to the method by which an individual can cultivate Christian faith.  Rather than rely upon the word of God alone, Tolstoy argues that faith cultivation is intimately linked to a reflection upon the extraordinary moments of life which are linked to birth and death.  For Tolstoy, this sort of reflection is not found in cosmopolitan centers like Rome or St. Petersburg.  Thus, while Anna’s tragic end is the result of her lack of faith (and her behavior which resulted from this), she is not to be completely condemned.  Tolstoy insists that we are, in many ways, subject to our immediate surroundings.  Ultimately, the cosmopolitan environment depicted in Anna Karenina is simply too morally corrosive for a successful Tolstoyan faith journey.  This, therefore, precludes a “righteous” life and invites tragedy.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans: Faith, But Not By Faith Alone

The first thing that any inquiring reader notes about Paul’s Letter to the Romans when read in this context is that it is not a work primarily focused upon vengeance or punishment.  In fact, the Letter’s primary theme focuses upon how faith works in tandem with divine law in order to make an individual righteous and justified.[9]  Paul begins the Letter by emphasizing the importance of faith.  He writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith’.” (Romans 1:16-17)[10]

This does not mean, however, that faith completely supplants the law.  For Paul, the law must be rooted in faith.  He writes, “For he will repay according to each one’s deeds . . . There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.” (Romans 2:6, 9-10)  He concludes this thought directly at the end of Chapter 3 by writing, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” (Roman 3: 31)

Paul argues that there is nothing new in the idea that faith plays a critical role in righteousness.  In Chapter 4 of the Letter, he writes that Abraham was righteous solely based upon faith.  He states, “For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” (Romans 4:13)   Christians, who consider themselves spiritual descendants of Abraham, may similarly be justified by faith.  To clarify this relationship, Paul provides an analogy: “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you.” (Romans 11: 17-18)  In other words, the law derives from faith.

Of course, the law of these upper branches, based upon Christian faith, is altered.  Paul famously concludes in Chapter 13 that love is the fulfillment of the law.  He writes, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13: 8-10)

All of this results in the notion that faith provides the desire to follow God’s law as passed down by the prophets, and that Christian love ultimately provides the essence and fulfillment of this law.  Because love is this essence, justice based upon vengeance can never be justified.  Paul explains:

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” (Romans 12:17-19)

In this way Paul explains the primacy of faith and love for Christians and how they relate to Mosaic law.  What is less clear in this letter is the method by which a Christian should (or can) cultivate faith.  In this regard, Paul only writes, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

Tolstoy does not seem content with Paul’s reliance upon the “word of Christ” alone as a method of faith cultivation.  As one obvious example of this, he has a faithless Karenin justify a supremely vengeful approach toward Anna by quoting Paul himself.  He writes:

“He that married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife, he that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord,’ said the apostle Paul, and Alexei Alexandrovich, who was now guided by the Scriptures in all things, often recalled this text.  It seemed to him that since he had been left without a wife, he had, by these very projects, served the Lord more than before.”[11]

While this Pauline text is not from Romans, but from I Corinthians (7:32-33), Tolstoy is attempting to illustrate that Paul’s suggestion that the word of Christ alone is not sufficient to establish a genuine faith in Karenin, nor to result in charitable love.  If, therefore, the Gospel is not enough to cultivate the faith necessary for righteousness and salvation, what is?  This is where we find Tolstoy’s primary amendment to Paul.  It is also where we must begin to examine Levin’s spiritual journey from atheist to believer.

Levin’s Conversion and the Holes in Ordinary Life

Perhaps the best way to understand Levin’s conversion is to work backward from the moment of this conversion.  This occurs, of course, during the birth of his son.  Tolstoy writes that Levin suddenly and quite unexpectedly, began to pray while Kitty was in labor.  Tolstoy writes:

“‘Lord, have mercy, forgive us, help us!’ he repeated words that somehow suddenly came to his lips.  And he, an unbeliever, repeated these words not just with his lips.  Now, in that moment, he knew that neither all his doubts, nor the impossibility he knew in himself of believing by means of reason, hindered him in the least from addressing God.  It all blew off his soul like dust.  To whom was he to turn if not to Him in whose hands he felt himself, his soul and his love to be?”[12]

Tolstoy then proceeds to explain what caused Levin to launch into this spontaneous prayer.  He writes:

“He knew and felt only that what was being accomplished was similar to what had been accomplished a year ago in a hotel in a provincial capital, on the deathbed of his brother Nikolai.  But that had been grief and this was joy.  But that grief and this joy were equally outside all ordinary circumstances of life, were like holes in this ordinary life, through which something higher showed.  And just as painful, as tormenting in its coming, was what was not being accomplished; and just as inconceivably, in contemplating this higher thing, the soul rose to such heights as it had never known before, where reason was no longer able to overtake it.”[13]

Tolstoy completes this thought by writing that these “holes in ordinary life” are characterized by moments in which his, ” . . . heart was ready to burst from compassion.”[14]

We have earlier hints in the novel that such “holes in ordinary life” could be triggered by the miracle of birth and mystery of death.  In fact, it is one of the first things we learn about Levin as he retreats back to his country estate after having been initially rejected by Kitty.  In the midst of the vexations of administering his estate, he learns of the birth of a calf and immediately runs off to inspect it.  For a moment, he overcomes the vexations of estate administration and the sorrow of his rejection by Kitty and comes, “under the influence of his joy over the calf.”[15]  He then retreats to his drawing room where he muses upon his childhood home, the family he would like to raise within it, and listens to the ceaseless chatter of Agafya Mikhailovna.  Tolstoy writes that Levin’s soul was being settled with thoughts of his future cattle along with the creation of his own family.

Levin’s instinctive understanding of the importance of birth and death is contrasted with his suspicion of science and rationalism.  This is also seen near the beginning of the novel when Levin listens to a philosophical discussion between his intellectual half-brother Koznyshev and an unnamed University Professor.  The discussion centers upon the question as to whether psychological states are dependent upon physiological conditions or can they occur independent of these conditions.[16]   Levin listens to this discussion, but becomes frustrated by the fact that every time the discussion begins to link “scientific questions” with “inner, spiritual ones”, the discussants hastily retreat and return to the, “realm of fine distinctions, reservations, quotations, allusions, references to authorities.”[17] When Levin attempts to force the two discussants to face a fundamental question by asking if the senses died along with the body, he is rebuffed.  They merely express annoyance at his interruption.

Much later in the novel, Tolstoy directly attacks reason.  He argues that reason cannot explain the most significant questions of our existence.  This is particularly true with regard to something of great importance to Levin – love.  This is because, “Reason could not discover love for the other, because it’s unreasonable.”[18]  Levin ultimately concludes that of all the non-Christian systems and ideologies that he had studied and observed, none provided to him satisfactory answers.  Only Christianity could address these most significant questions of our existence.

Interestingly, it is not the Christianity of the Russian Orthodox Church that leads Levin to this conclusion.  It should be recalled that in order to be married, Levin is compelled to confess before a Russian Orthodox Priest.  When he is asked during this confession about his faith, he honestly responds, “I have doubted, I doubt everything.”[19] The Priest ultimately tells Levin that the method by which he may obtain faith is through prayer.  He states, “Pray to God and ask Him [for faith].  Even the holy fathers had doubts and asked God to confirm their faith.”[20]  Levin is not convinced that prayer can lead to faith.  He is, however, struck with the Priest’s argument that faith will be important for answering difficult questions from future offspring.  Levin thinks that, ” .  . what this kindly and nice old man had said was not at all as stupid as it had seemed to him at first, and that there was something in it that needed to be grasped.”[21]  Of course, his faith experience occurs much later in the book.  This interaction is merely a hint that Levin’s faith will have a link to the natural cycle of birth, family, and death.

Levin is also not convinced that faith can be obtained through religious ritual.  He recalls the story of his brother Nikolai who, ” . . . , while at the University and for a year after the university, despite the mockery of his friends, had lived like a monk, strictly observing all the rituals of religion, services, fasts, and avoiding all pleasures, especially women”[22]  This period in Nikolai’s life does not last.  Levin remembers, “. . . it was as if something broke loose in him, he began keeping company with the most vile people and gave himself up to the most licentious debauchery.”[23]  In the midst of this debauchery, he became a communist, took up with a prostitute, and died without ever addressing life’s basic questions. Thus, Levin becomes convinced that faith cannot result from a “monk-like” adherence to the law, nor to fervent prayer, nor to reason. Faith is found through the “holes in ordinary life” which are linked to the miracle of birth and mystery of death.  This represents a departure from the message found in Letter to the Romans.   For Paul, the miracle of birth and mystery of death do not work to cultivate faith.  Rather, they serve to cultivate hope.  Paul writes in one of the most famous passages of the Letter,

For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.   We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8: 20-23) In essence, Tolstoy seems to bypass hope as a grace which forms the Christian spirit.   Birth and death, rather, trigger faith within an individual which, subsequently, sets an individual on the road to righteousness.[24]

All of this means that those individuals who do not reflect upon the extraordinary experiences of birth and death, as Levin does, will be deprived of faith.   Because the urbane and cosmopolitan life that is led by many in 19th century St. Petersburg seems to preclude a reflection upon these experiences, the people found there are largely lacking in faith.  It is therefore no surprise that Levin finds the largest numbers of believers in the countryside, among the Russian peasants who, ” . . .  inspired the greatest respect in him.”[25]  For Tolstoy, this is the crux of the problem for an urban dweller like Anna.  Gaining and cultivating faith (and therefore living in accordance with divine law) amidst the cosmopolitan atheists of Russian high society is simply not possible according Tolstoy.  This is the root of Anna’s tragedy.

Anna’s Failed Conversion

In the case of Anna, we are faced with a character who twice experiences the miracle of birth.  She nearly experiences the mystery of her own death as well.  However, in spite of these “holes in ordinary life”, she is not launched on the path to righteousness and justification through faith.  Why is this?

The first thing that must be said about Anna is that, by most accounts, she is a thoroughly sympathetic character.  This begins with the first depiction of her as she rushes to the aid of Dolly.  She caringly, albeit inadequately, mends the Oblonsky family.  She is also widely admired for her beauty and extolled for her selflessness. The problem, as it emerges, is that she is in a loveless marriage.  Of course, this may not necessarily represent a problem for most people within 19th century Russian high society, but it does for her.  Anna, you see, is a loving woman in a loveless society.  When she succumbs to the advances of Vronsky, many readers react sympathetically.  Why should this very deserving Anna not love and be loved in a manner she so deserves?

The birth of the child which results from this romantic union with Vronsky, however, brings out a quality in Anna that is not totally unlike that seen in Levin with the birth of his son.  When Karenin arrives to see her after the birth of her daughter, Anna makes the following statement:

“Yes, yes, yes.  This is what I wanted to say.  Don’t be surprised at me.  I’m the same . . . but there is another woman in me, I’m afraid of her – she fell in love with that man, and I wanted to hate you and couldn’t forget the other one who was there before.  The one who is not me.  Now I’m real, I’m whole.  I’m dying now, I know I’ll die, ask him. . . .  There’s one thing I need: forgive me, forgive me completely!  I’m terrible, but my nanny told me: that holy martyr – what was her name? – she was worse.  I’ll go to Rome, too, there are deserts there, and then I won’t bother anybody.”[26]

The holy martyr being referred to here is very likely St. Mary of Egypt, an Orthodox saint who converted to Christianity having once been a prostitute.[27]  In other words, the extraordinary experiences of birth and her seemingly imminent death lead Anna to feel that she too could become saintly.  She decides to break off with Vronsky and returns to her husband.

All of this changes when Betsy Tverskoy comes to visit Anna just after the birth of this child.  Betsy Tverskoy is, of course, a representative of Russian high society.  Her visit is not motivated by good will, a fact that Karenin suspects.  In fact, Karenin had been observing that, “. . . his society acquaintances, especially the women, took a special interest in him and his wife.  He had noticed that all these acquaintances had trouble concealing their joy over something, the same joy he had seen in the [divorce] lawyer’s eyes and now in the eyes of the footman.”[28]  This footman clearly understood that Betsy was visiting Anna in order to inform her of Vronsky’s suicide attempt.  He very likely surmised that this news may have the effect of convincing Anna to leave her husband (again) and return to Vronsky.   Anna is indeed taken with his act of disparate love and reverts back to the old Anna, who is in love with Vronsky and who is in need of his love.

Having thus descended back into her relationship with Vronsky, she is reminded of her fallen status.  She explains to Stiva, ” . . . I hate him [Karenin] for his virtues.  I cannot live with him . . . Would you believe that, though I know he’s a good and excellent man and I’m not worth his fingernail, I hate him even so?  I hate him for his magnanimity.” [29]  It is in this manner that Tolstoy illustrates that a faith which is provoked by life’s extraordinary experiences cannot be sustained within such a society.  To use the Pauline analogy mentioned above, it takes time for the branches of the Pauline olive tree to sprout once an extraordinary moment has germinated the seed of faith.  Indeed, a seed which falls amidst such thorny brambles, as found in this cosmopolitan society, cannot thrive. [30]   It took only one short visit of Betsy and the news of Vronsky’s attempted suicide for her to be pulled back into her old world of adultery.

Karenin’s Failed Conversion

Karenin’s transformation (and re-transformation) in response to the birth of Anna’s daughter is similar to that of Anna’s.  It is, for him, an extraordinary experience which leads to a genuinely felt faith experience.  However, just as with Anna, the faith experience which emerged was short-lived.  Why is this?

Unlike Anna, Karenin is, at least notionally, obedient to Christian law with regard to marriage and forgiveness.  Importantly, though, his motivation to do so throughout most of the novel is grounded in societal propriety.  Indeed, as he was concluding that he would not grant Anna a divorce, it gladdened Karenin that, ” …  no one would be able to say that he had not acted in accordance with the rules of that religion whose banner he had had always held high, amidst the general coolness and indifference.”[31]  Of course, Tolstoy soon makes it clear that societal propriety is an insufficient motivation to truly embrace the Christian law of genuine forgiveness and selfless charity.

It is only when Karenin is faced with the miracle of birth and the near-death of Anna, that he undergoes a transformation.  Tolstoy writes:

“Alexei Alexandrovich’s inner disturbance kept growing and now reached such a degree that he ceased to struggle with it; he suddenly felt that what he had considered an inner disturbance was, on the contrary, a blissful state of soul, which suddenly gave him a new, previously unknown happiness.  He was not thinking that the Christian law which he had wanted to follow all his life prescribed that he forgive and love his enemies; but the joyful feeling of love and forgiveness of his enemies filled his soul.[32]

In other words, for one brief moment, he throws away any concern for societal propriety and abandons himself to simple Christian charity and forgiveness.  He is speaking from the heart when he tells Vronsky, “You may trample me in the mud, make me the laughing-stock of society, I will not abandon her [Anna], I will never say a word of reproach to you.”[33]

Karenin’s dedication to the Christian rule of love and forgiveness that began with this extraordinary faith experience does not last.  Over time, he feels a societal pressure building up against his new approach.  Tolstoy describes the beginning of his re-transformation back into the old Karenin with the following words:

“The impossibility of his position in the eyes of the world, and his wife’s hatred of him, and generally the power of that crude, mysterious force which, contrary to his inner mood, guided his life, demanding the carrying out of its will and a change in his relations with his wife, had never before been presented to him with such obviousness as now. . . . He felt how, in response to it, a spiteful feeling arose in his soul that destroyed his peace and all the worthiness of his deed.”[34]

The re-transformation becomes complete two days after Anna’s departure for Italy with Vronsky.  When asked to pay a delinquent bill that Anna had forgotten to pay from a fashion shop, he is thrown into deep thought.  He decides that the general hatred toward him as a result of his relations with Anna are not the result of his bad behavior, but rather as a result of his unhappiness.  He concludes that because of this unhappiness, ” . . . they would be merciless towards him; people would destroy him, as dogs kill a wounded dog howling with pain.”[35]

Shortly after coming to this conclusion, Karenin opens up to Lydia Ivanovna and agrees to allow her to manage his affairs.  It is at this point that she informs his son that his father is a saint and that his mother is dead. [36]  From this point, Karenin embraces a disfigured form of Christianity which allows him to ” . . . possess at least an invented loftiness from which he, despised by everyone, could despise others …” [37]  With this, Levin’s short-lived faith-based journey to righteousness and justification is over.

Conclusion

Tolstoy’s illustration of Levin’s journey to faith as one which is sparked by life’s extraordinary moments represents a modification from Paul’s Letter to the Romans.  As seen from Anna and Karenin’s responses to the birth of Anna’s daughter, Tolstoy’s illustration of the importance of one’s surrounding society has profound implications as to how and where Christians should live their lives.

This is in contrast to that which is found in the Letter to the Romans.  At no point within this Letter does Paul urge his Christian followers to abandon the cosmopolitan city.  The closest he comes to this is seen near the end of the Letter in which he writes:

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them. For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded.” (16:17-18)

Tolstoy’s message in Anna Karenina is far more extreme.  His message is not merely “moralistic”, but involves a commitment on the part of Christians to avoid a sector of society which is popularly viewed as “elite” and, at least superficially, desirable.

All of this may help to explain why Tolstoy does not provide attribution to the epigraph at the beginning of the novel.  He did not want to scare away the readership with the notion that they will simply be presented with a moralistic tale which would require a dramatically different lifestyle.  It may also explain why the novel itself is called Anna Karenina rather the Konstantin Levin.  He understood that Anna’s drama revolving around adultery and the family would lure the reader into the story.  The novel’s real hero, however, is Levin.  Tolstoy wisely chose to convey his story in an obscured manner in order to compel the reader to reflect upon moral issues that they might not normally consider.  By all accounts, he succeeded in doing this.

 

Notes

[1] Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (New York: Penguin, 2000),  p. 1.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Gary Saul Morson recalls Andrew Wachtel’s point that, “in Russian realism the epigraph is practically unknown.  The first major Russian novel since the time of Pushkin to have an epigraph was Dostoevsky’s The Devils. . . . Thus, a serious, even cruel epigraph, such as ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay’ must have been rather shocking for Tolstoy’s contemporary reader.”  See Gary Saul Morson, Anna Karenina in Our Time, p. 241.  The original quote is taken from Andrew Wachtel, p. 111.

[4] Gary Saul Morson, Anna Karenina in our Time, p. 128.

[5] Ibid., p. 129.

[6] Ibid., p. 130.

[7] One insightful commentator wrote, “Tolstoy thus provides a nuanced picture of the real problems of serious persons who seek to love and be loved while experiencing the tensions or contradictions in any particular solution for civilized human needs.”  See Allan Bloom, Love and Friendship (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993),  p. 236.

[8] Considering that this novel was written following Tolstoy’s own conversion experience, it seems foolhardy not to examine this novel as a faith journey.  It is, of course, a journey in which one significant character is successful (Levin), while the others (like Anna and Karenin) fail.

[9] There has been, however, significant disagreement over the centuries as to the relative importance of faith vis-a-vis law in making an individual righteous and justified in the eyes of God.  In Western Christianity, Catholics and Protestants tend to disagree on this issue (with Catholics emphasizing the relative importance of law and Protestants emphasizing the relative importance of faith).

[10] The translation being used here is the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

[11] Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, (New York: Penguin, 2000), p. 516.

[12] Ibid., p. 709.

[13] Ibid., p. 713.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid., p. 94.

[16] Ibid., p. 24.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid., p. 797.

[19] Ibid., p. 440.

[20] Ibid., p. 441.

[21] Ibid., p. 442.

[22] Ibid., p. 84.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Although Tolstoy does not make this argument, one may argue that his approach is consistent with the idea that hope may serve as a catalyst for faith, which subsequently leads to righteous (and charitable) living according to the law.

[25] Ibid., p. 787.

[26] Ibid., 413.

[27] Ibid., note p. 829.

[28] Ibid., p. 420.

[29] Ibid., p. 427.

[30] The use of the seed as an analogy for faith is, of course, a popular one.  It can be found in Matthew 13:12.

[31] Ibid., p. 282.

[32] Ibid., p. 413.

[33] Ibid., p. 414.

[34] Ibid., p. 425.

[35] Ibid., p. 506.

[36] Ibid., p. 510.

[37] Ibid., p. 511.

 

 Also see “Reflections on Tolstoy’s ‘What is Art?’ Relevant to Our Times“;  “Marriage and Modernity in Anna Karenina“; and “Consciousness, Memory, and History in Tolstoy’s War and Peace.”

John P. Moran

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John P. Moran is a Professor of Political Science at Kennesaw State University. He has also served in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Policy)/Chairman, Joint Chiefs; United States Mission to United Nations; United State Embassy, Moscow; and United States Field Systems Agency, Tokyo. He is author of From Garrison State to Nation State: The Russian Military and Political Power under Gorbachev and Yeltsin (Praeger, 2001) and The Solution of the Fist: Dostoevsky and the Roots of Modern Terrorism (Lexington Books, 2009).