top of page

Who Killed Anna Karenina?Anna Karenina and Emile Durkheim's Theory of Suicide

Emile Durkheim (1858~1917) is one of the greatest sociologists of his time. Believing that the real causes of suicide are social factors, he rejected theories around suicide in biology and psychology and proposed a sociological analysis of the action. His new perspective suggests that suicide should be studied as a social phenomenon, and explanations should not rely on individual psychological factors alone. He introduced a concept called "social cohesion” , which is the degree to which an individual is connected to and feels a part of their community or social group. The concept implies that suicide rates were influenced by the level of social integration an individual experienced within society.

He identified different types of suicide based on variations in social integration and regulation, which includes:

a. Egoistic Suicide: This type occurs when an individual is insufficiently integrated into society, leading to feelings of isolation and detachment. Egoistic suicide is more likely to happen in societies with weak social bonds.

b. Altruistic Suicide: Altruistic suicide, on the other hand, occurs when an individual is excessively integrated into society to the point where their personal interests are sacrificed for the greater good or the interests of the group.

c. Anomic Suicide: Anomic suicide is linked to periods of social upheaval or disruption. It occurs when the social norms and regulations that guide behavior break down, leading to a sense of aimlessness and despair. Economic crises or sudden changes in an individual's circumstances can trigger anomic suicide.

On the other hand, "Anna Karenina"-an all time classic novel published in 1878 has intricate relationships with Durkheim's theory. "Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy is a classic novel that portrays the life of Anna Karenina-an aristocratic socialite trapped in an unhappy marriage as well as the societal norms the society holds against women. Due to her pursuit of emotional wellness and freedom, she has an affair with Count Vronsky, leading to her social downfall and ultimate suicide. The novel explores themes of love, society, and morality in 19th-century Russia, offering a rich portrayal of its characters and their complex relationships.

The novel became amongst my favorites because of it detailed and vivid portrayal of Anna's inner turmoil leading up to her suicide. It provides a profound insight into the societal norms and constraints placed on women during that era. Anna's contemplation of using her own death as a form of punishment against society was truly haunting and thought-provoking. As I delved deeper into Anna's motivations, I couldn't help but draw a connection between her suicide and Durkheim's sociological theory.

In my opinion, Anna's suicide is a combination of Egoistic Suicide and Anomic Suicide.

First and foremost, Anna's suicide exhibits characteristics of egoistic suicide as she becomes increasingly detached from society due to the ostracism and isolation she faces. Her affair with Vronsky leads to her being ridiculed and marginalized in social circles. Her decision to have an extramarital affair severed her ties with her family and other social relations, leaving her with only one significant connection in her life – Vronsky. However, as Vronsky's interest wanes and their relationship deteriorates, Anna loses this last social connection, intensifying her sense of isolation. This isolation ultimately drives her to take her own life by plunging onto the railway decisively.

Secondly, Anna's suicide also reflects elements of anomic suicide. She lives in a repressive and feudalistic society where her personal freedom is limited. Her emotional needs and pursue for freedom are predominantly channeled through her relationship with Vronsky. However, when Vronsky betrays her, it shatters her world view and leaves her emotionally adrift. This breakdown of her emotional support system, combined with the oppressive nature of her society, contributes to her decision to end her life.

9 views0 comments


bottom of page