A "Labyrinth of Linkages" in Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina"

A "Labyrinth of Linkages" in Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina"

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Gary Browning

Series: Studies in Russian and Slavic Literatures, Cultures and History
ISBN: 9781936235186 (hardcover) / 9781936235476 (paper)
Pages: 132 pp.
Publication Date: August 2010

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The renowned Russian writer Leo Tolstoy created a realistic masterpiece in Anna Karenina (1878). In the same work, moreover, he utilized allegory and symbol to an extent and at a level of sophistication unknown in his other works. In Browning’s study, the author identifies and analyzes previously unnoticed or only briefly mentioned “linkages and keystones” found in two highly developed clusters of symbols, arising from Anna’s momentous train ride and peasant nightmares, and of allegories, rooted in Vronsky’s disastrous steeplechase. Within this labyrinth of symbol and allegory lies embedded much of the novel’s most significant meaning. This study will be of particular interest to students and scholars of Russian literature, Tolstoy, symbol, allegory, structuralism, and moral criticism.


Gary Browning (PhD Harvard University, 1974) is Professor Emeritus at Brigham Young University. He is the author of Boris Pilniak: Scythian at a Typewriter (Penguin Group, 1985) and Leveraging Your Russian with Roots, Prefixes, and Suffixes (Slavica, 2001).


Recent scholarship has by and large taken Tolstoy’s reference to the “labyrinth of linkages” in Anna Karenina to indicate the dense and complicated network of interrelated an mutually illuminating images that create pathways to explicating the novel’s many possible meanings. However, a labyrinth in the classical sense in unicursal: one sinuous route leads from the outside into the center. The hermeneutic of Gary L. Browning’s book wore closely aligns with this second conception.
— Julie W. de Sherbinin, Colby College, in The Russian Review