Anna Arkadyevna Karenina: Anna is one of the main characters of the novel. She starts an affair with Vronsky and is overcome with guilt, grief at giving up her son and anguish at her position out of Society. She and Vronsky fight often about her jealousy and what she sees as his diminishing love. In the end she does not know what to do and sees no way out for herself. Remembering a man who had been run over by a train earlier in the novel, she chooses the same fate for herself and jumps under one. Anna’s thoughts and actions are one way that the moral issues and the Death theme in the novel are explored.
Alexis Alexandrovich Karenin: Karenin is Anna’s husband and a politician. He does not know how to handle Anna’s infidelity, and seems more concerned about what Society thinks than about Anna or himself. He is a Christian and in the end only wants to do what is right and what will save Anna, but his goodness makes her feel even worse, and she is not able to accept his generosity. He accepts Anna and Vronsky’s little girl to raise after Anna’s death. Karenin’s belief system and actions help to define the religious and moral themes of the novel.
Count Alexis Kirilich Vronsky: Vronsky is an officer and at first seems to be courting Kitty. After he meets Anna though, he follows her back to Petersburg to be near her. They start an affair, and after Anna is no longer welcome in Society she tries to get him to stay with her as much as possible. He does not understand how hard her position is on her, but is devastated after she dies. In the end he has decided to go to war in order to die in helping others.
Prince Stephen Arkadyevich Oblonsky: Oblonsky is Anna’s brother and husband to Dolly. He has affairs and does not repent of them because he is a handsome man and is no longer in love with his wife. He spends much beyond his means and gets the family in debt. His ideas and opinions follow that of the majority. Through Oblonsky the reader can see some of the differences between life in the city verses the country, and also the theme of the impoverishment of the nobility.
Princess Darya Alexandrovna Oblonskaya (Dolly): Dolly is Oblonsky’s wife and is devastated by his affairs. She does not see any way out for herself though, as she is still in love with Oblonsky and does not want to hurt her children. She is mainly concerned with her children, and when she finds out that Anna cannot have anymore children because the doctor had taken care of that, she is horrified.
Princess Catherine Alexandrovna Shcherbatskaya (Kitty): Kitty is Dolly’s sister. In the beginning of the novel she thinks that she is in love with Vronsky and that she will marry him, and so refuses Levin’s proposal. After Vronsky leaves with Anna she feels ashamed and gets ill. When the family goes to a watering-place for her recuperation, she meets Varenka and decides to devote herself to helping others and doing good. She later realizes that it is better for her to be herself and is quite happy in the end with her life in the country with Levin and their son.
Constantine Dmitrich Levin: Levin lives in the country and believes in hard work. He does not understand men like Oblonsky or their jobs. He thinks much about agriculture and the role of the laborer, and is devastated when Kitty refuses his proposal. Later, after he and Kitty are married, he is preoccupied with his doubt about the existence of God. In the end of the novel he finds meaning in his life though, and is quite satisfied. His struggle to find faith, as well as his concern about Death, illustrate these themes in the novel.
Sergius Ivanich Koznyshev: Koznyshev is Levin’s step-brother. He is a famous philosopher in Moscow. He and Levin get along but are not very close, as their lives are so different. Koznyshev thinks of asking Varenka to marry him, but realizes that he cannot dishonor the memory of the first woman he loved.
Nicholas Levin: Nicholas is Levin’s brother. His illness makes Levin think about Death and the uselessness of his work, making him preoccupied with thoughts of Death and the existence of God. Nicholas is quite scared of his illness and death, but in the end his suffering is great and it is a relief to all when he dies.
Mary Nikolavna: Mary Nikolavna is the woman who lives with Nicholas. She takes care of Nicholas and writes to Levin when he gets very ill. Levin does not really want Kitty to be around Mary, as she is a ruined woman, and Mary is nervous around Kitty because of her position.
Sergey Alexeyich Karenin (Serezha): Serezha is Anna and Karenin’s son. He does not know what to think about his mother or Vronsky, and is scared of his father. Anna is sorry to have to leave him, as she loves him more than she does her little girl.
Countess Lydia Ivanovna: The Countess is a good friend of Karenin’s and after Anna leaves him she falls in love with him and tries to take care of him. She convinces Karenin not to let Anna see Serezha (which she does anyway) and convinces him to become even more serious about his Christianity. In the end she and Karenin take guidance from a French clairvoyant for their decisions. She and her Society represent the moral social group.
Princess Elizabeth Fedorovna Tverskaya (Betsy): Betsy is the link between Anna and Vronsky, and it is through her and her Society that they are able to meet and begin their affair. She also has affairs, but she shuns Anna after Anna is open about her affair and does not get a divorce. She and her society represent the Grand Society and the group more concerned with pleasure than morality.
Mlle Varenka: Varenka is the woman who Kitty meets at the watering-place. She helps others and is not proud, and Kitty tries to be like her. She and Kitty remain friends even after Kitty realizes it is better to be herself.
Vasenka Veslovsky: Veslovsky is a second cousin of Kitty’s. Oblonsky brings him to Levin’s, and Levin is soon annoyed by him. Veslovsky is a silly man and pays too much attention to Kitty. Levin gets angry at his behavior and asks him to leave.