Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina

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Trains Symbol Icon
Anna and Vronsky’s entire ill-fated relationship is framed by their interactions on trains. Anna meets Vronsky on a train platform; when they meet, she sees a man killed upon being run over by the train, which is a gruesome foreshadowing of her own suicide. The train also becomes representative of Anna and Vronsky’s affair: though it is slow to begin and seems manageable at first, it soon gathers momentum and begins travelling at a speed far beyond Anna and Vronsky’s control, and the only thing that they can do is cling to it in increasing desperation. Trains are also a symbol of Russia’s connection with Western Europe and fashionable society. Tolstoy is skeptical about trying to graft European philosophies and ideas into Russian life. The trains represent life that moves at a speed faster than the natural course of events. While Tolstoy is in favor of efficiency and integrating new methods that have grown organically from Russian needs and will serve to make the country work in harmony, he is deeply skeptical about modernity for the sake of keeping up appearances and about ideas that come from the desire to remain in fashion rather than fulfilling society’s actual needs. At the end of the novel, trains also become important as the connection between Russia and Serbia, as Vronsky and others join the war to defend the Slavs.

Trains Quotes in Anna Karenina

The Anna Karenina quotes below all refer to the symbol of Trains. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Marriage and Family Life  Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Viking edition of Anna Karenina published in 2000.
Part 1, Chapter 18 Quotes

In that brief glance Vronsky had time to notice the restrained animation that played over her face and fluttered between her shining eyes and the barely noticeable smile that curved her red lips. It was as if a surplus of something so overflowed in her being that it expressed itself beyond her will, now in the brightness of her glance, now in her smile.

Related Characters: Anna Arkadyevna Karenina, Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky
Related Symbols: Trains
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

Vronsky first sees Anna Karenina at a train station, which foreshadows her eventual tragic end. On the one hand, their first glance has all the hallmarks of stereotypical “love at first sight”: even though they lock eyes only for a moment, both have the impression of being profoundly changed. Anna’s “shining eyes” and “red lips” are common characteristics of a beautiful woman in love. However, the relationship between Vronsky and Anna also has a spiritual dimension that goes beyond the mere cliché. Behind Anna’s expression is a “surplus of something,” suggesting a spiritual dimension that is beyond the capacities of language to express. The limitation of language is a common theme throughout Anna Karenina: the most powerful forces are not ones that can be stated in words, but rather exceed the constraints of speech.

The word “animation” is also crucial throughout the novel as signifying the life force or inner spirit within everyone. The fact that Anna must keep her animation “restrained” suggests that she is being constrained by the conventions of Russian society. From the very beginning, the animation between Vronsky and Anna must be outwardly restrained due to the laws and customs of their society. However, the tension between the outward restraint and the inner emotion only makes their love burn more strongly. Indeed, without the tension that the restraint provides, the animation itself might warp or dim.

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Part 7, Chapter 30 Quotes

“No, you’re going in vain,” she mentally addressed a company in a coach-and-four who were evidently going out of town for some merriment. “And the dog you’re taking with you won’t help you. You won’t get away from yourselves.”

Related Characters: Anna Arkadyevna Karenina (speaker)
Related Symbols: Trains
Page Number: 762
Explanation and Analysis:

As Anna is preparing to commit suicide at the train station, she projects her own despair onto her surroundings. Anna uses the sight of the innocent carriage-riders to express her own perturbed state of mind. She laments that these unknown travelers will never get away from themselves, which only underscores the all-consuming, self-centered nature of her own tragedy. Anna addresses the travelers in her mind, but it is really herself that she’s addressing. Anna can no longer perceive any other state of mind or emotion beyond that of her own despair. Anna’s misery has turned into a vortex that sucks in and distorts everything she sees.

Anna’s belief that everything in life is in vain mirrors Levin’s belief that everything humans do is in vain, but her approach is from a very different perspective. Anna has sacrificed everything in her life to feed her own desires, but she realizes that she can never get away from herself, and she concludes that her only option is to commit suicide. Levin, on the other hand, recognizes that even though life is futile, he can be happy by not attempting to rationalize everything, but instead accepting what life will offer him and living via faith and action. Anna’s solution to the futility of life rejects the idea of a higher power, but the fact that the novel continues after her death, and that it ends with Levin, not Anna, suggests that Tolstoy offers a worldview to the reader that promises redemption, despite Anna’s totalizing misery.

Part 7, Chapter 31 Quotes

And just at that moment when the midpoint between the two wheels came even with her, she threw the red bag aside and, drawing her head down between her shoulders, fell on her hands under the carriage, and with a light movement, as if preparing to get up again at once, sank to her knees.

Related Characters: Anna Arkadyevna Karenina (speaker)
Related Symbols: Trains
Page Number: 768
Explanation and Analysis:

When Anna succeeds in committing suicide, she does not leap wildly; rather, her fall is premeditated, and she kneels before the train, as though in prayer, or as though she is about to be married. Kneeling suggests that Anna is submitting herself to a higher power. The “red bag” is an important detail in this scene, as it symbolically references many previous aspects of the plot. The red bag gets in the way when Anna initially tries to jump into the tracks, just as Vronsky’s gun got in the way when he attempted to commit suicide and he misfired.

Although the red bag prevents Anna from jumping in front of the first carriage, she does not take its role as a shield to be a sign that she should not go through with her action. Instead, she tosses the protective bag aside and prostrates herself in front of the next carriage. Red is the color of love and of blood: with the bag on her arm, Anna is symbolically wearing her heart on her sleeve. The color also recalls Anna’s red lips when she saw Vronsky at the train station at the beginning of the novel. At the beginning of the novel, red signified desire and lust; while it still signifies desire here, this passion pulls Anna toward death, not love.

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Trains Symbol Timeline in Anna Karenina

The timeline below shows where the symbol Trains appears in Anna Karenina. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 17
Marriage and Family Life  Theme Icon
Adultery and Jealousy Theme Icon
Society and Class  Theme Icon
The next morning, Oblonsky and Vronsky both arrive at the train station: Oblonsky is there to fetch Anna, and Vronsky is coming to meet his mother. (full context)
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Adultery and Jealousy Theme Icon
Society and Class  Theme Icon
...just proposed to Kitty, and Vronsky comments offhand that Kitty can do better. Meanwhile, the train arrives. (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 18
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Adultery and Jealousy Theme Icon
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Vronsky enters the train car to look for his mother, but as he does so, a woman passes who... (full context)
Marriage and Family Life  Theme Icon
Adultery and Jealousy Theme Icon
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...The Countess tells Vronsky that the two women chatted about their sons for the entire train ride. (full context)
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As they all leave the station, a watchman is run over by a train. Anna is disturbed, viewing the death as a bad omen. (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 20
Marriage and Family Life  Theme Icon
Adultery and Jealousy Theme Icon
Anna mentions that she met Vronsky at the train station, and Kitty blushes. Anna talks about Vronsky’s mother, and Anna says that she will... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 29
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Anna is relieved to be on the train leaving Moscow. She begins to read an English novel, but she cannot concentrate. Rather than... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 30
Marriage and Family Life  Theme Icon
Adultery and Jealousy Theme Icon
As Anna stands on the train platform in the snowstorm, Vronsky suddenly appears. He has followed her from Moscow. The news... (full context)
Marriage and Family Life  Theme Icon
Adultery and Jealousy Theme Icon
The first face Anna sees when the train pulls into Petersburg is her husband’s, and the first thing she notices are his unsightly... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 31
Marriage and Family Life  Theme Icon
Adultery and Jealousy Theme Icon
Vronsky has not slept on the train either, but he feels invigorated and pleased with the impression that Anna has made on... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 32
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Society and Class  Theme Icon
Farming and Rural Life Theme Icon
Compassion and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...think badly of him. Three days after Nikolai leaves, Levin himself goes abroad. At the railway station, he meets Kitty’s cousin and says that he knows mortality is near. Work, feels... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 9
Marriage and Family Life  Theme Icon
Society and Class  Theme Icon
Compassion and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...meet Karenin, but Levin and Karenin, as it happens, had met previously once, on a train. Kitty asks Levin about bear hunting and gives Levin an opportunity to show off his... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 15
Marriage and Family Life  Theme Icon
Society and Class  Theme Icon
Farming and Rural Life Theme Icon
...poverty is due to importing European infrastructure and that urban growth is stunting Russian agriculture; trains, he argues, should help contribute to farming across the country, rather than concentrate all energy... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 6
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Farming and Rural Life Theme Icon
During the children’s tea, the adults talk. Oblonsky is expected on the train, and Kitty’s father might be coming as well, though likely not. Kitty’s mother is sad... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 31
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...Vronsky doesn’t want to return to his gloomy home, but he gets on the next train that night. (full context)
Part 7, Chapter 31
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Anna boards the train. All the other passengers appear hideous to her. Outside the train, bending by the wheels,... (full context)
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Anna walks along the platform. She remembers the man who was run over by the train on the day that she met Vronsky, and she knows what she must do. She... (full context)
Part 8, Chapter 2
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The railway station is crowded with volunteers supporting the Slavic movement. Koznyshev learns that Vronsky is on... (full context)
Part 8, Chapter 3
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People are singing patriotic songs as Koznyshev and Katavasov board the train. Katavasov wants to observe the volunteers, so he goes into second class to make their... (full context)
Part 8, Chapter 4
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Compassion and Forgiveness Theme Icon
During a train stop, Koznyshev walks past Vronsky’s apartment and sees Vronsky’s mother, though not Vronsky. She tells... (full context)