“No, you’re going in vain,” she mentally addressed a company in a coach-and-four who were evidently going out of town for some merriment. “And the dog you’re taking with you won’t help you. You won’t get away from yourselves.”
These are among Anna’s thoughts as she rides to the train station in Part Seven, Chapter 30, in one of the most famous interior monologues in the history of literature. On the simplest level, Anna displays a classic case of what the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud called projection: she superimposes her own life crisis on others, assuming that they are as unable to find happiness as she is. In her current state, Anna is gloomily self-centered, unable to see beyond her own misery or to acknowledge that other moods or states of mind are possible. She sums up this self-centered aspect of her unhappiness perfectly when she mentally informs the others that they cannot get away from themselves: the self is the center of Anna’s existence and its central problem. She sacrifices friends and family in order to pursue her deepest personal desires and to realize herself, only to discover that her self is her greatest torment—and she cannot get away from herself except in suicide.
Anna’s words also ironically echo Levin’s spiritual meditations. Her despairing lament that life’s activities are all “in vain” is an expression of the old Christian idea of life’s futility—that existence has no rational aim and therefore must be backed up by faith. It is this conclusion that Levin makes in realizing that he lives happily only when he stops analyzing his life rationally. He is able to stop obsessing about life’s futility by simply accepting life and living it in faith. Anna and Levin mirror each other’s experiences, though from different angles and with very different results.