The first sentence of the novel ‘Anna Karenina’, written by Leo Tolstoy, is “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy was very capable writer who understood human emotions and described them in his unique writing style. He is considered one of the best novelists of all time. Many authors believe ‘Anna Karenina’ to be the best novel ever written. Originally written in Russian in 1878, this novel depicted life of a woman named Anna Karenina.
Happy families are happy for similar reasons: love between husband and wife, beautiful children, parental blessing and guidance, prosperity, riches and health, fame and respect in society. These reasons for happiness can be applied to almost all families but there are various different reasons for suffering. Everyone has personal reason that makes one sad or unhappy. Of course, family grievances have common reasons, such as the conflict between husband and wife, children or parents’ health issues, education of children, loss in the business. But in addition to these common reasons, every member’s expectation from and perspective towards life also plays a part in the misery of whole family. Family being an interlinked unit, every member can affect its happiness.
In the novel, Anna has a very good family. Her husband is reputed person in society and loves her. Still that beautiful girl, Anna, despite being mother of a child, falls in love with someone else, which has an adverse effect on her family life. In the novel, Leo Tolstoy gives beautiful depiction of the emotions, mood and mental condition of Anna, her child, husband and lover.
The important thing is that we often become sad because of our desire of what we don’t have, rather than being happy with what we already have. The teaching of Lord Buddha – desire is the root of misery, agony and sadness- applies here. Lord Buddha might not have intended to say that a person should not wish for anything, but what he meant was expecting what one does not have, and neglecting value of what one has, is the root of misery.
Likewise, Anna’s expectation of love from that young person, neglecting her settled family, brought pain in her life. People suffer not only because of weakness, but also by ignoring own strengths. Being unhappy because of not having things – though not otherwise unnecessary – has become epidemic of present time.
At first glance, in this classic novel, we look at Anna as villainous. But Leo Tolstoy describes her actions, without judging her, in a manner that we feel sympathy with her by the end of the novel. Even though she is against the rules of the contemporary society, by the end of the story, reader understands Anna’s mental state and her expectations.
In our families, we might do an interesting exercise. Read out this sentence to everyone. Let all members think over it for a few minutes and then come out with their reaction or thoughts. Surely, everyone will have some story to narrate. Possibly it will also be the beginning of analysing cause of some family problems. This sentence is pragmatically meaningful and covers essence of the novel.