I'm reading Anna Karenina for an AP Literature class, and I have to do journal entries on the reading, which includes character analysis. One of the characters, Stepan, cheats on his wife.

Later he is described as "Stepan was a truthful man with himself. He was incapable of deceiving himself and persuading himself that he repented of his conduct."

Ironically, cheating on your wife is often seen as something dishonest.

A few pages later it explains Stepan chooses his political views based on those that suit his own personal beliefs (confirmation bias). For example, "The liberal party said that marriage is an institution quite out of date, and that it needs reconstruction; and family life certainly afforded Stepan little gratification, and forced him into lying and hypocrisy, which were so repulsive to his nature."

Okay, so we see the conflict: Stepan by nature is a truthful man, but monogamy is forcing him to lie and cheat, making him a hypocrite.

So given all this context, I don't know what the best adjective would be for the quote "Stepan was a truthful man with himself. He was incapable of deceiving / persuading himself that he repented his conduct." I want to say integrity, because he's staying true to himself... but how is he staying true to himself if he's in a marriage? Doesn't that make him a hypocrite? But on the surface, hypocrite isn't an apt description of that quote, because there isn't anything hypocritical about the quote itself.

I think I've just confused everybody who has read this. But if you think you understand what I'm getting at, feel free to offer some help.

  • 1
    Welcome to ELU. If you take time to explore this site, you'll find that its focus is grammar, usage, syntax and the gnarly stuff of the English language. It's not a homework help site, and while some members are incredibly well-read, most will give short shrift to this kind of question. As an AP Lit teacher and exam reader, I'm going to tell you that it's a great question - for your classroom and your teacher. A hint: don't let Stepan off the hook with a one-word label. Cheers!
    – Rob_Ster
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 2:48
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    ^ Thank-you Rob! I hope I didn't break any rules with my question. But you are right that this would make for a good question (another part of my assignment is coming up with questions). So maybe this would be better suited for that. Currently on part five of eight and enjoying every bit of it. :)
    – Kyle Smith
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 2:53
  • I think self-aware may be the word you're looking for.
    – Barmar
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 17:17
  • ^ This is the best answer so far, Barmar. Thank-you! Turned in my assignment on this book earlier today. :D
    – Kyle Smith
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 22:20
  • What the heck is an "AP Literature class'? The "AP" bit, I mean.
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 14:16

1 Answer 1


What you're describing touches on the concept of cognitive dissonance so I might describe such a character as 'dissonant'. Other words you might consider are 'irresolute' and 'dissolute'.

  • 1
    Perfect! Thank-you so much, a very suitable word. :D
    – Kyle Smith
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 23:02

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