“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”
The term, the “Anna Karenina Principle”, was coined by Jared Diamond in his book, Guns, Germs and Steel, 1997. It states that a deficit in any one of a number of factors in any undertaking, will result in the failure of that undertaking. The reverse to this, is of a successful undertaking, in which every possible deficiency has been avoided.
This can be applied to families, to childhood experiences, and to stories about families and childhood. These are common topics in fiction and memoir for writers throughout the ages, and also today. If the principle is correct, it would seem that unhappiness is more conducive as a theme for inspiration and for the creation of great literature than that of happiness,
The name of the principle, which is really a notion or a hypothesis, derives from Leo Tolstoy’s novel, Anna Karenina, 1878. At the beginning of the book we read, “All happy families are the same; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. Author Jared Diamond applied this logic to animal domestication (all undomesticated animals, such as zebras, cheetahs, giraffes and llamas were unsuitable for domestication in varying ways). The zebra was found to be unsuccessful, compared to the horse, as a family pet or equestrian subject, on many levels. (Wikipedia)