Anna is a beautiful, aristocratic, sharply intelligent, intensely charismatic woman. Nearly everyone––male, female, young, old––is magnetically attracted to her, and at the beginning of the novel, she is the brilliant center of society. However, her… (read full character analysis)
Vronsky is a dashing young military officer whom Anna falls in love with. Their passionate affair causes Anna to leave her husband, Karenin; eventually, the affair spirals into despair, and Anna commits suicide due… (read full character analysis)
Karenin, Anna’s husband, is a high-ranking, wealthy government official. His primary concern throughout the novel is to uphold his reputation in society: he would rather remain in a loveless marriage that appears fine from… (read full character analysis)
Anna’s brother and Dolly’s husband, Stiva Oblonsky, is a well-liked, social, merry aristocrat. Even though he has had an affair at the beginning of the novel, and even though his servants know that they… (read full character analysis)
Levin, the other main protagonist of the novel (besides Anna), is a landowner who is primarily concerned with farming, agricultural, and rural life. He is socially awkward: he feels much more at home… (read full character analysis)
Kitty, Dolly’s younger sister, is a sensitive, excitable, somewhat high-strung young girl who begins the novel in love with Vronsky. After he rejects her in favor of the dazzling Anna, she spirals… (read full character analysis)
Levin’s brother, Nikolai, has fallen prey to gambling and alcohol addictions and is quite sick, ultimately dying a protracted death. Though Nikolai has passionate political and intellectual views, they fade into the background… (read full character analysis)
Koznyshev, Levin and Nikolai’s half-brother, is an intellectual who immerses himself zealously in all the most current political activities. He follows all the intellectual trends and fads rather than developing his own points of… (read full character analysis)
Anna deeply loves her son, Seryozha, who is her child with Karenin. Anna does not want to give up custody of Seryozha, which she would have to do if she and Karenin officially… (read full character analysis)
Princess Betsy is the center of Anna’s brilliant, high-class social circle in Petersburg. She is graceful, liked by all, and canny, as she knows all the intricacies of her complicated network. Betsy’s social circle is… (read full character analysis)
Lydia is a sanctimonious, pious, upright woman; she professes to be extremely religious but only uses Christianity for her own self-serving needs. Lydia preys on Karenin, attaching herself to his side when he is… (read full character analysis)
Serpukhovskoy and Vronsky grew up with parallel lives in the regiment, but Serpukhovskoy has overtaken Vronsky career-wise: while Vronsky was focusing on his affair with Anna, Serpukhovskoy was moving forward with his ambitions. He… (read full character analysis)
Kitty, Dolly, and Natalie’s father, the old Prince, never trusts Vronsky, instead much preferring Levin as a match for Kitty. He sees through the hypocrisies of fashionable society.
Kitty, Dolly, and Natalie’s mother, the old Princess, is eager to please fashionable society. She initially prefers Vronsky to Levin and enjoys the finer aspects of life. Unlike her husband, she is somewhat oblivious to hypocrisy.
Kitty’s friend at the German spa. Varenka is humble, loyal, and good. She and Levin’s brother, Koznyshev, almost get engaged, but the moment passes and the potential relationship fizzles.
Petrov is a painter at the German spa. Varenka has an innocuous friendship with him, but although Kitty naively tries to do the same, she finds that Petrov is falling in love with her, despite her attempts not to flirt.
Vronsky’s friend who becomes involved in the Slavic question and political affairs later in the novel.
Princess Varvara Oblonsky
Anna’s and Oblonsky’s elderly aunt, Princess Varvara, is notorious for living off other people’s largess. She rationalizes Anna and Vronsky’s affair because she wants to keep benefitting from their luxurious lifestyle, but towards the end of the novel, even she abandons Anna.
Vronsky’s roommate and friend in the regiment; a rash, carefree young officer.
Nikolai’s mistress, Marya, is a prostitute, but she cares for Nikolai as though she were his legal spouse.
Agafya was Levin’s childhood nurse, and he is loyal to her. She has stayed with Levin and worked for him throughout his life, and she comes to work for Levin and Kitty when they marry.
Golenishchev is one of Vronsky’s friends; although relations between Golenischev and Vronsky have been somewhat strained in the past, they get along in Italy, especially since Golenischev doesn’t judge Anna and Vronsky’s relationship.
A young society dandy and friend of Oblonsky’s whom Oblonsky brings along when he visits Levin. Veslovsky is an abysmal hunter and he flirts shamelessly with Kitty, yet he is ultimately affable and pleasant.
Madame Stahl, a woman at the German spa whom Varenka takes care of, is—unlike Varenka—a hypocrite, professing to be extremely spiritual when in fact she operates in an entirely vain, self-serving fashion.
Levin’s friend, a landowner, whose cruel actions towards his peasants go against his stated enlightened opinions about them.
Natalie’s husband and Levin’s brother-in-law. Levin feels comfortable around the affable Prince, who has raised his children well.
Princess Natalya (Natalie) Alexandrovna Lvov
Dolly and Kitty’s sister, Natalie, is a pleasant woman with a happy family life.
A scholar whom Levin visits in Moscow.
Landau is a French clairvoyant whom Lydia, in her sanctimonious spiritualism, consults for advice. Tolstoy portrays him as a bogus fraud. Lydia uses Landau’s advice to declare that Karenin should not divorce Anna.
Mitya (a diminutive form of the name Dmitri) is Levin and Kitty’s baby. At the end of the novel, Mitya recognizes his parents, showing that they are a solid, happy family unit.
Vronsky’s mother, Countess Vronsky, is another example of a hypocritical society lady.
Vronsky’s excitable horse. When Vronsky isn’t paying enough attention to the steeplechase and grows over-confident, the horse falls and breaks its back and must be killed out of mercy.
Levin’s hunting dog, who can sense Levin’s moods.
Mikhailov is the talented painter in Italy who paints Anna’s portrait. Unlike Vronsky, who dabbles in art but does not display any real passion for it, Mikhailov has true skill, and he captures Anna’s charisma.