In Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, the main character Anna Arkadyevna Karenina is also seen as a tragic heroine. Anna Karenina, a beautiful and elegant housewife falls in love with Count Vronsky. The adulterous relationship disturbs the position in society of Anna Karenina and Vronsky. Anna Karenina’s tragedy or downfall is produce by her distinct and powerful selfishness. Evidently, these characters, as tragic heroines prove to have strong individualism and extremism; by displaying a strong determination, intelligence and sensitivity; by helping others in their own way and living isolated from society.
Hester Prynne demonstrates her transcendence in the first Scaffold scene. At the scene Hester shows remarkable bravery and determination by refusing to reveal the name of her child’s father; Dimmesdale. As well as Karenina, her decisions and actions are seen as an unethical and highly immoral by society. However, regardless of the reaction of her surroundings, Hester keeps a solid position and even refuses to save herself from her sin. Hester’s strong determination and enigmatic attitude saves Dimmesdale from his mundane activity. This scene is the start of Hester’s tragedy and exemplifies her individualism and extremism.
Anna Karenina expresses distinctiveness in the scene where Dolly comes to visit her at the country house. Dolly is astonished by Anna’s freedom by riding horseback, which society considers improper for ladies. As Hester, Anna is against the rules that society has created and subsequently she lives a non-conformist life. Karenin still admits, “I’m unforgivably happy, something magical has happened to me, like a dream”(pg.613) Dolly also admires her beauty, and despite all her suffering, pain and moral she continues to be a sophisticated and radiant. Similarly, Hester’s and Anna’s extremism to fulfill what they believe lead them to their tragedy.
Prynne reveals a special characteristic in chapter thirteen where the meaning of the scarlet letter changes. Hester Prynne despite all her public humiliation and her constant suffering, she becomes altruist. Prynne devotes part of her time to charity; helping the poor, the ill and women go to her in search of advice. Therefore, Hester is view as an Angel, changing the previous meaning of adultery. In addition, Hester is shown as an intelligent and capable woman since she was able to show society her sin and to not give up easily. Her decision to help Puritan community, even though they denigrated her, illustrates her sensitivity and intelligence.
Anna is intelligent and literate, a reader of English novels and a writer of children’s books she also “studied all the subjects that interested Vronsky, so that he often turned directly to her with questions of agronomy, architecture and occasionally, eben hourse-breeding and sports” (pg.643). Anna is elegant, always understated in her dress and has a peculiar facility to talk and express herself. Anna Karenina also displays sensitivity by saving Dolly’s and Stiva’s marriage in part one. Dolly, devastated by grief over her husband’s adultery, meets Anna who deeply cares about the Obloskys family. Karenina tells Dolly that Stiva is suffering and that he is capable of total repentance and with Anna’s kind words, she rescues Dolly’s marriage. In comparison with Hester Prynne, Anna’s goodness deteriorates as she suffers from public humiliation and guilt, while Hester Prynne faces society regardless of her shame.
Condemned by her sin, Hester Prynne suffers from isolation at the beginning of the novel. Hester Prynne had the opportunity to escape all social disaffection, but she decides to live in Boston because she needs to be close to Pearl’s father. Consequently, Hester settles in an abandoned cabin on a patch of infertile land at the edge of town. Hester remains alienated from everyone, including the town fathers, respected women, beggars, children, and even strangers. Furthermore, Hester remains able to support herself due to her uncommon talent in needlework but brides will not wear the product of Hester Prynne’s hands. Therefore, as Anna Karenina, Hester Prynne is alienated and isolated from the rest of the community.
Anna Karenina also lives the consequences of her extramarital affair. Anna lives in disgrace and shame, after deciding to leave her husband, son and society. The scandalous aristocratic people, encourages Anna to leave St. Petersburgo. An example of Anna’s social isolation occurs at the scene where Anna attends the opera. Anna is insulted by acquaintances in the neighboring box creating a painful and forced ostracism. Therefore, Anna and Vronsky live in exile; at the country Vozdvizhenskoe. Furthermore, Anna’s freedom and disconnection of her surroundings provide her with leisure. Consequently, Anna has more time to analyze her life and Vronsky’s actions and becomes extremely insecure. She became jealous “Having as yet no object for jealousy, she was looking for one”(pg. 751). Evidently, Anna Karenina and Hester Prynne suffer from society disaffection and negligence.