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Despite the passing of a century and a half since Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina first reached the public’s bookshelves, many of its characters continue to resonate with modern times. The lessons to be drawn from their experiences informs our own, none more so than Stepan Arkadyevich Oblonsky, brother of the eponymous protagonist of Anna Karenina. From the onset of the novel, Stepan is portrayed as a good-natured man, loved and cared for by all who know him, save for his wife. His quarrel with her - a conflict of his own making - exposes flaws in the otherwise spotless character which he incarnates, several of which merit discussion, namely that of his approach to politics.
“Stepan Arkadyevich did not choose either his tendency or his views, as these tendencies and views came to him by themselves, in just the same way that he did not choose a style of hat or frock-coat, but plumped for the ones which other people wore.”
Despite being married to one of Moscow’s old aristocratic families and bearing the title of ‘Prince,’ it appears that he cares little for politics, picking his political views off a popular newspaper as one would food off a menu. Tolstoy implies that if the newspaper changed its views from, say, one end of the political spectrum to another, Oblonsky’s own views would not hesitate to mirror this immense change at the drop of a hat. Consequently, his approach towards politics defines itself by his lack of critical thinking and absence of interest. Whilst indifference frees one of the (at times) difficult task of having to come up with an opinion, such freedom is fleeting when one considers the effects of the lack of debate.
This debate’s scope is not one of grand scale spanning nations, or even multiple people, but rather the ‘internal debate’ happening within our own minds: that which leads to the formation of an individual opinion. Anna Karenina is a narrative that only several times crosses paths with politics, but the insights Tolstoy provides into Oblonsky’s nature reflect a certain trend through time: that people often avoid forming independent opinions on politics, effectively subscribing to ‘Oblonsky Politics’ - the approach demonstrated by this character.