Stiva seems to typify the corruption of human values that Tolstoy blames on city refinements. His “natural goodness” perverted by a life of pleasure seeking, he fails to appreciate his wife’s worth and destroys a significant part of her life. His unwitting powers of destruction are echoed in the incident where he is the tool for devaluation of Russia’s forest resources.
Stiva shares many qualities with Anna, though they lack the intensity of her quest for emotional commitment. But it is this very lack which makes Stiva a corruptive influence in the nation and in his intimate circle, while Anna’s intensity makes her destroy only herself. Like Anna, Stiva responds to emotions, not conventions, while, by contrast to his sister, his superficiality allows him to satisfy his needs within his social environment.