By Banks Lynne Reid
By Banks Lynne Reid
Lynne Reid Banks was born in London in 1929. During World War II Banks’ family was evacuated to Canada but she was able to return to her native London after the war was over. Banks attended St. Teresa’s School in Surrey and then started a career as an actress and television journalist.
In her early 30s, Banks moved to Israel where she taught school for eight years, met her husband, had children, and worked on her budding writing career. Banks and her family returned to London in 1971, but the influence of her time in Israel can be seen in many of her literary works. Over her career Banks has penned novels for children as well as adults, as well as a couple of non-fiction books and two picture books which she collaborated on with her son, Omri.
Omri is also the name of the title character in Banks’ most well-known children’s series which begins with the fantasy novel The Indian in the Cupboard (1980). The novel and its successors follow Omri’s adventures with a plastic Indian toy, which Omri makes come to life with the aid of a magic cupboard and a key from his grandmother.
Omri’s friend Patrick also uses the cupboard to bring a cowboy to life, and the boys come to realize that fantasy should not always be reality. The Indian in the Cupboard is often included as a part of the teaching curriculum for elementary aged readers and was rated “the best novel of the year” (1980) by the New York Times.
Omri receives an old white cupboard for his birthday, which just happens to be a perfect fit for the key to his great-grandmother’s jewelry box. Omri places the humdrum Indian figurine, that his friend Patrick gives him for his birthday, into the cupboard and locks it one day, only to discover that the cupboard has magical powers and is able to bring his plastic toys to life.
Omri is excited at the prospect of his once banal figurines becoming real people, so he does not mind when the Indian, Little Bear, bosses him around and acts superior. Omri understands that he cannot share the magic of the cupboard with other people because they will not understand and may abuse the power, but he itches to tell someone so he puts his trust in his friend Patrick.
Patrick, just as Omri suspects, becomes enthralled by the possibilities and it brings out his greed and selfishness. Patrick insists on making his cowboy figurine come alive and does so when Omri is not around; the cowboy’s name is Boone and immediately he and Little Bear do not get along.
After a series of missteps, Patrick lets the secret slip and reveals the little men to the school headmaster, which nearly ruins his friendship with Omri. Soon Omri realizes that Little Bear and Boone are real people, and it is inhumane for him to keep them; he must let them get back to their own world. Despite Omri and Patrick’s sadness at saying farewell to their new friends, they agree that it is for the best though they keep the cupboard just as a reminder of the magic that is possible.
The two main friendships in the novel are Omri’s friendship with Patrick and Omri’s friendship with Little Bear. Omri and Patrick are close enough for Omri to share the secret of the cupboard with Patrick, and to keep him as a friend when he spills the secret himself. Omri proves to be a terrific friend because of the way he cares about others and truly values human life. Omri understands when Patrick takes advantage of the cupboard and the secret and so he manages to forgive him, though he is disappointed.
Despite Omri’s young age, he takes on and manages a considerable amount of responsibility when he learns the secret of the cupboard. He is responsible enough to realize that the toys he brings to life become real people, and he goes out of his way to ensure that they have everything they need and desire to live happily. He also knows that he must not tell anyone else of the magic because others will take advantage of it, as he learns when he decides to tell Patrick.
Fantasy is essential to the plot of the novel because if Omri and Patrick, did not like to play in the fantasy world then the magic of the cupboard would never have been discovered. Both boys love to play with plastic figurines and make up stories for them, though Omri had no idea that his toys would soon tell him their stories themselves when he placed them in the cupboard and turned the key. It is also notable that Omri and Patrick believe in the fantasy world because it made them more accepting of the possibility of toys coming to life. For example, when Mr. Johnson saw the mini men himself, he still did not believe it and felt that he was going insane.
Soon after Omri’s fantasies came true and the Indian figurine came to life he realized that it was no longer fantasy, and the Indian was a real person. The reality of the situation hit Omri the hardest when Little Bear began to tell him about the wars he had been in and the scalps that he had collected. Omri knew that Little Bear, and also Boone, were real people with real stories and lives and thus must be treated safely and with respect. By the end of the novel, Omri realized that the true reality was that he was being unfair to Boone and Little Bear by keeping them from their real lives.
Talk of death was the first sign for Omri that Little Bear was an actual person who existed in another time. He became sick to his stomach when Little Bear spoke of the lives he had taken and the scalps he had collected. The more cognizant Omri became of the fact that his toys were real people; the more he worried about the possibility of their death. When they were in Patrick’s pocket, and he fell to the ground, Omri worried that Patrick had killed them. When Boone actually did almost die, after Little Bear shot him with an arrow, Omri did everything he could to keep the little man alive.
Omri was a young boy but was still remarkably caring, responsible, mature, and intelligent for him age. While he loved playing games of fantasy and was first extremely excited to see one of his toys come to life, it did not take him long to realize that the Indian was a real man. Omri valued the lives of Little Bear and Boone just as he did the lives of his own family and friends. He realized that he must protect them and care for them just as he would anyone else, because they were people and deserved respect and safety.
Omri goes through a period where he sort of earns his own independence, and also where he realizes that he is jeopardizing the independence of Little Bear and Boone. Omri learns to be independent for himself when he cares for the Indian and the cowboy by giving them shelter, food, and medical care. However, by the end of the novel Omri sees that once Little Bear and Boone were independent as well but he was taking that away from them by keeping them in his room. Omri knew that he must send them back to where they came from, out of respect.
Omri makes the transition from boy to more of a man throughout the course of the novel. At the beginning of the story, Omri is content to play with his plastic figurines, though he is excited when he gets a new cupboard with a key. After Omri finds that he can bring his toys to life he is, at first, enthralled and in awe of the possibility. Once Omri realizes that his toys become real people with real needs, lives, and feelings, he knows that he must treat them as such and is disappointed in Patrick when he does not see able to do the same. Through Omri’s experiences with Little Bear and Boone, both good and bad, his mentality matures.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, when Omri’s toys come to life it becomes the greatest adventure he could imagine. He has a secret that he must keep from others, he is able to vividly imagine the worlds that Little Bear and Boone come from, and he is mainly living inside of one of his playtime fantasies. While Omri understands that he must balance his sense of adventure with the reality that Little Bear and Boone are actual people, it takes Patrick longer to come to the same realization. Patrick allows his sense of adventure to make him greedy, selfish, and insecure.
The character which exemplifies courage the most is Little Bear. Omri is in awe of Little Bear’s courage and develops a deep respect for the Indian because of it; though Little Bear’s courage is often overshadowed by his arrogance. Omri realizes that not only is Little Bear courageous in a world that he does not recognize at all, surrounded by people who appear to be giants, but he was also courageous in his own world where there are often wars and a near constant threat of death.
Omri is the protagonist of the novel; a young boy who lives with his parents, as well as his older brothers Gillon and Adiel. He is a boy who enjoys making up games to play with his toys and gets a massive shock when he is gifted a cupboard that allows his plastic toys to come to life. He befriends the tiny Indian man called Little Bear and soon realizes that Little Bear is no longer his toy, but a real live person. Omri matures throughout the novel as he realizes the value of a human life in caring for Little Bear and a cowboy called Boone, which he also brought to life.
Patrick is Omri’s best friend who gifted Omri with the plastic figurine of Little Bear for his birthday. Patrick realizes that Omri is hiding something from him and finally learns that the plastic figurine of the Indian was brought to life. Soon Patrick wants his own small friend so despite Omri’s resistance he puts the cowboy Boone into the cupboard. Patrick becomes selfish and greedy when he learns of the cupboard’s magic, and evens spills the secret which nearly ruins his friendship with Omri. Patrick slowly begins to mature, though he still wishes he could keep Boone.
Gillon is one of Omri’s older brothers. He found a white cupboard on the side of the road and gave it to Omri for his birthday; little did Gillon know that the cupboard held magic when combined with the key to his great-grandmother’s jewelry box. Gillon has a pet rat which often gets loose throughout the house. Once when it got loose beneath the floorboards in Omri’s room it nearly attacked Little Bear, who was beneath the floor trying to retrieve the key with the red string.
Adiel is Omri’s other older brother. Adiel often accuses his brothers of stealing things that he has misplaced himself. On one occasion, Adiel was sure that Omri had stolen his football shorts, and, in return, he hid the magic cupboard from Omri and in the process lost the key. Omri desperately needed the cupboard at that moment in time and tore the house, as well as Adiel’s room, apart in an attempt to find it. When Patrick found Adiel’s shorts, which had fallen behind the radiator, Adiel sheepishly admitted that the cupboard was hidden in the attic.
Little Bear is the Indian figurine that Patrick gave Omri for his birthday, and which came to life in the magic cupboard. Little Bear is dead sure of himself and bossy which often gets on Omri’s nerves, though Omri is so excited at first that he does not care about the way he is treated. After a while, Omri teaches Little Bear that he must be more respectful of others and try not to be so sensitive, especially when it comes to Boone whom he sees as an enemy. Eventually Little Bear and Boone become friends and Little Bear gets to return home with a wife that Omri found for him.
Boone is the cowboy that Patrick brought to life, against the better judgment of Omri. Boone is highly sensitive and emotional; he has a tendency to cry when he feels scared or even when he just loses his hat. Boone and Little Bear started off rocky at first, though they soon became friends. However, when Boone got into watching a Western movie and began talking about the Indians in a negative manner Little Bear’s temper got the better of him, and he shot Boone in the chest with an arrow. Boone nearly died but pulled through and parted ways with Omri, Patrick, and Little Bear as friends.
Bright Stars is the wife-to-be of Little Bear. Little Bear was feeling lonely without a wife so Omri let Little Bear pick out an Indian figurine at the store that he would bring to life. Bright Stars is quiet and seems to know a lot about healing, as she tended to Boone while he healed from his near-fatal arrow wound. Bright Stars returned to Little Bear’s home with him where they were going to be married, when it came time for Omri to say goodbye.
Omri’s Mother gave Omri the key that fit into and locked his cupboard. She was surprised at the key that fit because it had once belonged to her grandmother’s jewelry box. Omri’s Mother often wonders what Omri is up to when he is playing in his room, and she is especially curious when he comes down to the kitchen to get small bits of food for “games” he is playing. She worries about her boys and tries to keep them on the right track.
Omri’s father is a stern, yet kind man who loves gardening and takes a lot of pride in his seeds and plants. Omri takes a seed tray from his father to give Little Bear, for land. When Omri’s father realizes the seed tray is gone he tells Omri to give it back or buy a new one, but he does not ask what Omri is using it for because he is not one to pry into his sons’ business. Omri’s father is often preoccupied with his gardening, though when he speaks to his sons about their behavior he means business.
For Omri’s birthday, his best friend Patrick gave him a secondhand plastic figurine of an Indian. Omri appreciated the present because his friend did not have to get him anything at all, but, in truth, he was disappointed because he was getting a bit sick of plastic figurines; he had more of them than he knew what to do with and also had no cowboys for the Indian to play with. When Omri got home he had a birthday tea with his family and was ecstatic to receive a skateboard from his parents and a helmet from his brother Adiel.
Omri expected nothing from his other brother Gillon because he knew that Gillon had no money, but he was pleasantly surprised to receive a small white metal cupboard which Gillon had found in the alley. Omri only wished that the cupboard would lock, and his mother pointed out that it had a keyhole and Omri could try all of the spare keys that were lying around to see if any of them would fit.
A decidedly odd looking little key did happen to fit, and Omri’s mother was surprised to see that it was the key which had opened Omri’s grandmother’s jewelry box once upon a time. Omri wondered what to keep in the cupboard, and his mother suggested the Indian that Patrick had given him, which she had found in his pants pocket when she was doing laundry. Omri locked the Indian in the cupboard and closed his eyes to sleep.
Omri was sure that he had heard noises coming from the cupboard that night, though he knew it could not be possible. However, in the morning the noises actually woke him and he knew that there must be something alive inside of the locked doors. Omri approached the cupboard and touched the door, feeling something move behind it. When Omri opened the door the Indian appeared to be missing though Omri eventually saw it; it was crouched in the corner, and it was breathing.
Omri and the Indian sat fearfully still, staring at one another for at least a couple of minutes. Omri felt that he must pick up the Indian so he reached in and the Indian stabbed Omri’s hand with his small knife. Omri was not discouraged but instead tried to speak to the Indian and convince the Indian that he belonged to Omri and, therefore, should allow himself to be picked up. The Indian was particularly skeptical of Omri and understandably terrified. Omri shut the door when he heard his mother coming and jumped back into his bed.
Omri quickly got dressed and was dying to look inside the cupboard again, but there was too much traffic through the upstairs of his house in the morning and he knew that if he shut the door someone would burst in. Omri got into an argument with his brothers that morning and was unable to see the Indian again before school; then on the way to school Omri realized that he forgot his swimming stuff after his fight with Adiel which only made tensions higher. The positive to spending so much time fighting was that Omri was able to push the Indian out of his mind for a bit.
It was not until Omri saw Patrick that he thought of the Indian again, and then it is all he thought about for the rest of the day. He tried to tell Patrick about the Indian several times by hinting that the Indian was the best gift that he got. Eventually he let it slip that the Indian speaks, and Patrick had a hard time believing him, yet was intrigued. Rather than staying after school to skateboard Omri wanted to get home to play with the Indian but he would not let Patrick come; he wanted to get to know the Indian first.
Omri worried that the Indian would be dead when he got home because he was shut up in the airless cupboard all day with no food or water. When he got home, he raced up the stairs and opened the cupboard only to find that the Indian had turned back to plastic. Omri would have thought that he had imagined the whole ordeal only the Indian was in an entirely different position than he had been the day before. Omri cried then went down to dinner where his parents worried that he was ill, and his mother put him to bed, concerned because he could not tell her what was wrong. When his mother left, Omri heard a scratching coming from the cupboard and opened it to find the Indian there, alive. The Indian ordered Omri to get him food and a blanket so Omri snuck downstairs and made a plate of food he thought the Indian may enjoy as well as a Coke. The Indian turned his nose up at Omri and his offerings, including a toy teepee and sleeping bag, but he did enjoy the Coke. The Indian demanded that the next day Omri bring him meat, fire, and colors to paint the tepee that Omri built for him, and Omri agreed.
When the Indian fell asleep, Omri decided to experiment with his other toys and see if anything else will come to life; he started with a teepee and a matchbox car. Omri fell asleep before he could open the cupboard and check. In the morning, he was woken by the sound of the Indian yelling to him to say that the sun was up, and they were wasting precious hours. Omri suddenly remembered the cupboard and opened it to find that the plastic teepee had been turned into a real one, though the metal car had not changed at all; Omri decides that the cupboard’s magic only works on plastic toys.
The Indian likes the teepee but needs paint so he can paint Iroquois symbols, rather than the Algonquin symbols which it is already decorated with. The Indian is pleased to find out that he is in England because the English helped the Iroquois in times of war; Omri is scared when he leans that the Indian, whose name is Little Bear, took thirty scalps during the war.
Omri left the room to find some meat for Little Bear and was distracted thinking about the Indian crouched over someone’s body with his scalping knife. Omri found a can of corned beef and stood there eating it idly while he thought about Little Bear’s war experience. Omri returned to his room and gave Little Bear the meat. Next the Indian wanted a gun, though Omri did not think that was a brilliant idea so he offered to get Little Bear a bow and arrows instead.
Omri also offered Little Bear a horse, which the Indian first turned his nose up at but changed his mind when Omri put a selection of plastic horses in front of him. Little Bear chose one, after he accepted that he could not have them all, and Omri placed it inside the cupboard and locked the door; the horse came alive at once. At first the horse went wild but then Little Bear stared it down, and the horse suddenly belonged to him. Omri knew that his family would not be up for some time so he offered to take Little Bear and his horse outside, though he warned Little Bear not to run off because there were mountain lions that would eat him.
Little Bear jumped onto the horse’s back and clung to its main as the animal galloped off down the path by the lawn. Omri was not sure if he could keep up because the little horse moved so quickly, but he found it easy if he stayed on the lawn. As the horse sped down the path, the dry ground rose up in a cloud of dust which Omri appreciated because it helped him to imagine that they were out in the wild, on uncharted territory. Omri was beginning to see things as the Indian must; he saw small rocks as boulders, weeds as trees, and the border of the lawn as a barrier to the unknown. Omri realized that these things must seem terrifying to Little Bear, yet he braves the unknown anyway; Omri develops a lot of respect for the Indian. Little Bear asked Omri to get him some weapons such as a bow and arrows and a gun so that he may better protect himself. Omri does not think that a gun is a marvellous idea, but he agrees to find the Indian a bow and arrows.
Omri had to get ready for school so he put the Indian and the horse into a box and carried it inside where he nearly ran right into his father who was wondering why Omri had been outside in his slippers. When Omri got into his room, he opened the box and saw that Little Bear, with a brave face on, was bleeding badly from the leg as the horse had gotten spooked when Omri stopped suddenly and had kicked Little Bear. Omri was not sure what to do about the injury, but Little Bear, remaining calm, told Omri to get some water and bandages. Omri returned with some water and cotton wool, but this was not good enough for a bandage on such a small limb. Omri noticed a war figurine carrying a doctor bag and wondered what the bag might contain if he could make it real, so he stuck it in the cupboard. Minutes later he could hear the war soldier calling out from the cupboard.
For some reason, Omri had not realized that the soldier would come alive as well as his medical bag, but honestly it was a blessing in disguise because Omri did need someone the same size as Little Bear to properly dress the wound with the tiny supplies. When the soldier saw Omri he turned white as a ghost and wobbled at the knees, though Omri calmed the little man by telling him that he was simply dreaming. The soldier accepted this news easily enough and did not resist Omri’s request to help Little Bear, though he was shocked to see an Indian. Omri was curious to know what was in the small medical bag, as the supplies were too small to make out, so he snuck into Gillon’s room and borrowed his magnifying glass. When Omri returned the soldier was making a neat tourniquet on Little Bear’s leg, and he could finally see inside the bag, which was full of pill boxes, bandages, ointments, and needles. The cut on Little Bear’s leg was rather deep, but the soldier did a beautiful job of bandaging it, and even Little Bear seemed impressed. Omri thanked the soldier and asked him to dream of him again sometime. The soldier introduced himself as Tommy Atkins and said it would be his pleasure. Omri placed him back into the cupboard where he once again turned to plastic.
Omri was curious as to what Little Bear and the horse would do while he was at school and Little Bear told him that he wants to build a longhouse, but he will need bark, earth, tools, water, fire, food, and other supplies that Omri was overwhelmed to hear. Omri went down to breakfast and wolfed down his eggs, saving a small piece of toast for Little Bear. He also gathered a soil tray which was already packed with earth, some bark and twigs, and grass for the horse. Little Bear appeared to be in prayer when Omri returned so he left the supplies where Little Bear would find them along with the toast, what was left of the hash, and some water. Omri’s mother called to him several times that it was time to go, and he finally tore himself away, grabbed his lunch money and parka, and went off to school.
Omri ran all the way to school and went directly to the library to find a book about Indians. Much to his delight he found one, and while he was excited to learn more about Indians he was not excited about the 300 page book with remarkably little pictures. Omri skimmed through the book and learned a fair amount about the Iroquois, their feud with the Algonquin Indians, and their history of scalping.
Reluctantly Omri left the library to head to the assembly and then to class, where he was even more distracted than usual, and Patrick noticed. Patrick was still intrigued yet skeptical about Omri’s claims that the Indian came to life and was annoyed that Omri did not want to skateboard or hang out with him anymore.
Omri cut school at lunch to head to Yapp’s store where Patrick had purchased the Indian; he wanted to find a bow and arrow for Little Bear. Omri ended up purchasing an older Indian Chief with a headdress and a bow and arrows. That afternoon during craft time, Omri made a new teepee for Little Bear, which his teacher was both surprised and impressed with.
Omri ran home in ten minutes after school, a journey which usually took him a half hour. When he got there, he asked to be excused from tea and ran up to his room, dodging questions from his mother about what he has been doing up there. When Omri got into his room, he found Little Bear constructing an impressive longhouse and the horse tied to a stake, happily munching on grass.
Omri sat and observed for a while without saying anything and when he finally did speak he startled Little Bear so much that he nearly fell off the roof, though he was happy to see Omri. Little Bear was impressed by the new teepee and was excited to paint pictures on it, though he was confused by the old Indian Chief who stood by the teepee, still made of hard plastic.
Omri tried to explain that the Chief was plastic and that he would make the bow and arrows real for Little Bear, and he noticed that Little Bear seemed particularly interested in the headdress though he said that he could not become Chief until the real Chief died.
Omri placed the Chief into the cupboard and the old man came to life, though he was startled to see Omri. Suddenly the old man fell over, and Omri called to Little Bear to help the man. Little Bear held a feather to the Chief’s mouth, declared him dead, and took the headdress as he would now be Chief.
Little Bear began giving Omri orders as soon as he put the headdress on, and Omri did not appreciate the Indian’s attitude. Just as Omri began to set the Indian straight his father called to him from downstairs. Omri’s father was upset with him for stealing the seed tray and wanted Omri to give it back or replace it. Omri refused to give it back, and his father did not pry, but he did insist that Omri head to the store right away to get him a new one.
Omri rode his bike to the store to buy his father’s replacement seed tray and marrow seeds and found Patrick waiting outside for him. Patrick pulled something from his pocket that he had bought for Omri; it was a cowboy with a pistol, riding a horse.
Patrick wanted Omri to bring it to life so the Indian could play with it, but Omri had to explain to Patrick that they would fight because once they came alive they were no longer toys.
Patrick seemed skeptical still and asked if he could see Little Bear; Omri knew that he may no longer be friends with Patrick if he did not share his secret so he agreed to have his friend over. When they got to the house, Omri gave his father the seed and tray and then the boys hurried upstairs to see Little Bear.
Omri was horrified to see that his door, which he knew had been shut, was now open. Omri entered the room to see his two brothers staring at something, and he feared that they had discovered the Indian. Thankfully, they were only staring at the longhouse and were mightily impressed with Omri’s ability to construct something so intricate; though Omri, of course, did not build the house.
Omri quickly ushered his brother’s out of the room, though not before they heard a distinct horse’s whinny from beneath the bed which Omri passed off as a dolphin toy he had gotten for Christmas.
After Omri’s brother’s left the room he coaxed Little Bear and the horse out from under the bed, where Little Bear explains they had fled to when they heard the brothers coming. Patrick stared at Little Bear in awe, unable to speak even when Little Bear declared him a friend as he was a friend of Omri.
Patrick was amazed to learn that the cupboard would make any toy made of plastic come alive, and he wanted to create entire armies of little people. Omri explained to Patrick that once the toys came to life they were no longer toys, they were real people who lived real lives and were from different times and spoke different languages.
He showed Patrick the dead Indian Chief and Patrick was taken aback by the whole situation, declaring it less fun than he had imagined. Little Bear was disappointed to learn that Omri had not gotten him any animals to hunt, which Omri had determined to be a poor idea.
Omri decided to build Little Bear a fire and to get him a chunk of raw meat from the kitchen; Little Bear was disappointed with this arrangement but agreed nonetheless.
Omri stealthily snuck a small piece of steak from the fridge, a match from the fireplace, and a tin tray from Adiel for the Indian to build his fire and cook his meat with. After watching the Indian cook his meat in amazement, Patrick asked Omri to bring another toy to life for him.
Omri was surprised by Patrick’s request and was not sure what to say at first. The more he thought about it the worse of an idea it seemed to be. Omri started to get angry, and Patrick became crazed with the idea of having his own little person to play with. Omri did not think that Patrick understood what it was actually like, though he insisted that he did, but he could not blame his friend for wanting his own little person after finding out the secret.
The boys began to wrestle with one another in their arguing and knocked over Little Bear’s fire, stomping it out and ruining the meat. Little Bear got majorly angry with Omri and called him an immature little boy; he came at Omri with his battle axe, but Omri managed to side step the Indian.
Omri calmed Little Bear by promising to get him something delicious to eat immediately, and he ran downstairs to get a bit of the dinner his mother had been cooking. Downstairs he asked for a spoonful of stew for a game he and Patrick were playing, and he realized that he had left Patrick alone in the room with the cupboard and many tins full of plastic figurines.
Omri ran back upstairs faster than he had ever run before, and he saw Patrick in front of the cupboard, turning the key to open the door. He saw Patrick’s eyes light up as he cupped something in his hands; Omri was relieved that Patrick had only chosen to bring one figurine to life: the cowboy and his horse.
The horse was terrified and bucked like wild while the cowboy tried to stay out of the horse’s way, all in Patrick’s hands. During the struggle, Patrick was shot by the cowboy, though Omri managed to squeeze the miniscule bullet out of the wound. Omri tried to get Patrick to change the cowboy back, but Patrick nearly started another fight with him over it. Omri looked around for Little Bear and found him on the other side of the room, painting.
Little Bear reminded Omri that he must eat soon, or he will die and Omri quickly brought the Indian some stew in Action Man’s mess tin. The Indian was appreciate of the stew and told Omri that he wants a beautiful wife because a Chief should have a beautiful wife. Omri agreed to go to the store the next day and get Little Bear a wife.
The boys then heard Omri’s mother coming up the stairs and just barely hid the Indian and the cowboy before she opened the door. She said that Patrick’s mother wanted him home, and it was time for Omri to eat supper.
Patrick shoved the cowboy in his pocket, and Omri told him to be gentle and also to not show anyone or the cupboard would be taken away. Patrick was reluctant but agreed to leave the cowboy and horse with Omri. However, he told Omri that if he changed them back or did not bring them to school the next day he would share the secret. Omri felt like Patrick was a stranger at that moment, but because they were, in fact, friends, he agreed.
Omri stashed the cowboy and horse into his sock drawer and raced downstairs where he wolfed down his dinner. When Omri returned to his room he looked around and tried to see it in the eyes of Little Bear and the cowboy; he wanted to keep them as far apart as possible but realized it should not be much of a problem because the room was as momentous as a national park to such little people.
Omri emptied a dressing crate and put the cowboy and his horse in there for the night, but as soon as he set the cowboy down the little man began yelling at Omri, whom he had decided was only a hallucination. Suddenly the cowboy began to cry, and Omri did not know what he could do; he thought maybe he should let him be because when his mother cried she liked to be left alone.
Omri, seeing he could not do anything for the cowboy, left him alone and went about finding Little Bear. When he found the Indian there were more demands for supplies and for animals and fish so he could hunt. Omri did not appreciate being ordered around but agreed to try to fulfill some of the Indian’s demands the next day. One of Little Bear’s requests was to have a wife, which Omri also agreed to look for.
Omri went to bed when he heard his mother call to him and drifted off as he heard a horse whinny. He wondered if the horses could have smelled one another, but he decided there was no way the cowboy and Indian could cross paths in the night. Just after dawn Omri was awakened by the sound of gunshots.
Omri jumped out of bed and immediately looked in the crate, which was empty, and he noticed that a knot of wood had been pushed out of the side just large enough for the horse and cowboy to crawl out of. Omri suddenly found himself in the middle of a gun and bow and arrow fight between the cowboy and Little Bear.
Omri tried to reason with Little Bear but was having no luck. When Little Bear came at the cowboy with a knife, with the intention of scalping him, Omri picked Little Bear up off the ground and tried again. He told Little Bear that the cowboy is no threat to him, and he must leave him alone and let Omri take care of him. Little Bear finally struck a bargain with Omri, convincing Omri to bring him to the store and let him pick out his own wife. Omri set Little Bear back down and his seed tray and went to check on the cowboy.
The cowboy was sitting on the ground crying. When Omri asked him what was wrong, he learned that the cowboy had simply lost his hat, which Omri retrieved for him. Omri learned that the cowboy’s name was Boone, though people called him “Boohoo” because he cried so much.
Omri felt sorry for the cowboy because he had a tendency to cry too easily, as well. He told Boone that he need not be scared of Little Bear anymore because Omri had handled it. Omri placed Boone and the horse back into the crate and plugged the hole in the side. He asked Boone to stay put and offered to bring him some breakfast. Boone was “not very hungry” and only wanted steak, a few eggs, beans, and coffee.
Omri snuck downstairs to make breakfast for Boone and Little Bear, confident in his cooking abilities thought he usually only made sweets. Still, Omri felt that he could crack an egg just fine until he actually tried and ended up with half of the shell in the pan along with the egg.
Omri just left the shell cooking with the eggs and moved on to heating up a can of beans, which went ok but some of them fell in with the eggs and started to pop causing the kitchen to fill with smoke. Omri turned off the stove, worried that someone would smell what was going on and come downstairs. He dumped the eggs and beans, still cold, into a bowl and took it upstairs along with a hunk of bread.
Upstairs, Omri saw Little Bear and was greeted with the same attitude he usually is but this time Omri surprised the Indian. Omri told Little Bear that he was going to eat what Omri made him, and he was going to eat it with Boone.
The Indian looked angry and perplexed and reached for his knife. Omri went to the crate to get Boone who was happy at the presence of food. He was not happy, however, when Omri lowered his hand for Boone to climb on because he wanted to eat in the safety of his crate. When Omri told Boone that he would be eating with Little Bear, Boone nearly fell off Omri’s hand in fear and protest.
Omri put Boone down right in front of the Indian, and the two men stared at each other unsure what move to make, then Omri placed a large spoon full of food in front of them. Little Bear did not hesitate to dig in, but Boone did not want to share a plate with a “dirty” Indian, until Omri pointed out that he was pretty dirty himself at the moment and threatened to share his nickname with Little Bear. Boone sat and began to eat, complaining that he had no coffee.
When Little Bear finished eating, he was ready to fight and reached for his knife. Boone did not run, however; he just told the Indian that he was not going to fight until he was finished eating. He certainly took his time to clean up every last bit of food on the spoon, and Omri suspected he was just trying to delay the battle.
When Boone was finished, he laid down his rules; he wanted a fair fight with no weapons because a knife was no battle for a gun, and the gun had no bullets anyway. Little Bear was not about to give up his knife, and Boone made it a point to mention that Omri would not let the Indian scalp him. Boone threw his gun and put his fists up, which only angered Little Bear and he took a swipe at the cowboy with his knife.
Finally, Little Bear got the hint; he dropped his knife and lunged at the cowboy. The two little men rolled around brawling for a few minutes kicking, punching, and even biting, until Omri broke it up. He told them that it was a draw and to get cleaned up because they were going to school.
Omri got a small egg cup that he filled with hot water and brought it to Boone and Little Bear, along with a small chunk of soap. The Indian did not hesitate to take off his shirt and plunge his arms right into the water, scrubbing vigorously but ignoring the soap. Boone, on the other hand, did not seem fond of the concept of washing at all. It seemed obviously that Boone had not washed in quite some time, but he did wash his hands and even use a little soap when Omri pointed out how much cleaner Little Bear was. It took some coaxing to get Boone to wash more than just his hands, though he still was not thoroughly clean and would not wash his clothes. Omri placed the two little men in his pockets when he went down to breakfast and listened to his family argue and complain about things, as they did every morning. When Omri was done eating, he headed straight to school with his secret in his pocket.
Omri gave Boone to Patrick when he got to school, and one of the girls saw him hand it over. She teased Patrick, trying to find out what he had in his pocket, and the other kids jumped in on the fun. Patrick and Omri ran away until they were inside. They got little accomplished that morning because they were nervous about being caught. At the assembly, Omri suddenly felt a painful prick in his hip and it took him a second to realize that Little Bear must have stabbed him. Omri cried out, and the headmaster assumed Patrick stuck him with a pencil so he kicked both boys out of the hall. Once outside and to the far end of the playground Omri took Little Bear out of his pocket and started screaming at him for the multiple stabs. Little Bear had gotten bored and lonely and even asked to be put in the same pocket as Boone for company. Omri agreed though Boone did not seem crazy about the idea, as long as Little Bear gave up his knife. He told Patrick that they could trade after lunch, and he could hold the two men in his pocket.
The rest of the morning was slow and quiet; Omri dared look in his pocket once and saw Boone and Little Bear facing one another talking peacefully though quiet enough that no one could hear them. At lunch, Omri decided he must sit somewhere remote and sneak bits of food into his pocket, but he did not expect Patrick to throw a fit in the lunch line and insist on feeding them by himself. Omri dragged Patrick into the hall, told him that he better not show anyone, and placed the cowboy and Indian into his hand.
Omri was no longer hungry, but Patrick could not wait to get food. He sat down and tried squeezing food into his pocket that seemed much too cramped for the little men to be comfortable in. Suddenly he got into an argument, and a shoving match ensued that resulted in Patrick falling on floor and Omri worrying that he had killed the cowboy and Indian. Omri seemed satisfied when no blood came from the pocket and Patrick told him that they were moving.
Back in the classroom Patrick was nowhere to be found for some time and Omri worried about what had happened. Suddenly Patrick appeared and sat next to Omri, telling him that he had been in the music room and had fed the two men, but they did not seem unusually hungry. The teacher sent both boys to the headmaster’s office for talking and because Patrick had been twenty minutes late and she did not believe his excuse of being in the bathroom.
In Mr. Johnson’s office, the headmaster, Patrick had a sort of nervous breakdown, began giggling uncontrollably and just started telling the man about Little Bear. Omri was kicked out when he lunged at Patrick and started yelling at him. Omri waited outside the office, kicking and screaming at the door, and suddenly Patrick and the headmaster came out. The headmaster was white in the face; Patrick was crying, and Omri knew that Patrick had showed him.
Mr. Johnson seemed unsteady and ghostly white, told his secretary that he was ill and going home for the day, and returned to his office. Patrick did not look much better. The two boys went to the bathroom to clean up, and Patrick looked truly traumatized as he washed his face. Omri was mad but could see how upset Patrick was so he just told him that he should not have showed anyone and demanded to have the little men back.
Little Bear and Boone looked terrified, and Omri tried to reassure them before putting them back in his pocket. Art class was next, and Omri decided it was time to have some fun so he took the desk furthest back and facing away from the teacher, knowing that he could not be seen. He took the two men from his pocket and placed them on his paper where they looked around the school in awe. Boone was familiar with school, but Little Bear thought it strange.
Boone told Omri that he loved art class, and he genuinely liked to draw. He sat down, pulled out a small pencil, and began to draw on Omri’s paper. The scene was unbelievable; it was of a town which looked extremely realistic with mud, people, horses, shops, and all. Omri asked Boone if that was his town and what year he came from. Boone said it was 1889 last time he had seen a newspaper.
Omri was called to the teacher’s desk because even alone he could not help but talk; he was asked to bring his paper, as well. At first the teacher thought the picture was just a smudge, but her face became perplexed and then full of awe as she retrieved a magnifying glass and took in the beautiful drawing. She was confused as to how Omri had drawn the picture, or held the tiny pencil he brought her and when he asked to be dismissed she agreed, clearly in a daze.
Omri made it all the way outside before he started laughing, and he told Boone and Little Bear that he had a lot of fun just then. He headed to Yapp’s store to get a wife for Little Bear. Little Bear was picky but finally agreed on one in a red dress which Omri’s paid for. Mr. Yapp stopped Omri and accused him of stealing two others, a cowboy and an Indian. Suddenly Patrick stepped in and saved the day, telling Mr. Yapp that Omri had them at school and had showed them; he even described what they were wearing.
Mr. Yapp insisted on seeing so Omri pulled them out of his pocket in a fist, brought the fist to his mouth to whisper for the men to lie dead still, and opened his hand. Mr. Yapp was convinced by the two realistic looking “toys” and apologized, giving the two boys some chocolate. On the way home, Omri shared his chocolate with Patrick, Little Bear, and Boone, and asked Patrick to stay the night.
When the boys got home they grabbed peanut butter sandwiches and milk while Adiel watched them smugly. They ran upstairs, and Omri noticed immediately that the cupboard was gone, and he ran downstairs to find out where Adiel put it, knowing he was the culprit. Adiel accused Omri of stealing his football shorts and in return had taken the cupboard from him. Omri went upstairs and began to ransack Adiel’s room until Adiel came upstairs and lunged at him. Suddenly Patrick found the football shorts behind the radiator and Adiel looked sheepish. He told Omri that the cupboard was in the attic; Omri and Patrick ran up there right away. They found the cupboard but quickly realized there was no key on its little red ribbon. They searched and cleaned but to no avail; the key was gone.
The boys played outside with Boone, Little Bear, and their horses still fretting about the key which Adiel had not seen. After looking for the key one more time Omri and Patrick sat down to watch television; Adiel and Gillon had gone to a school function. First a movie about animals was on that Little Bear and Boone were fascinated with, but then it was time for a Western. Omri knew it was a crummy idea, but Boone was excited about it so Omri allowed him to watch it for a short while. When a scene with a cowboy and Indian fight came on things got heated and Little Bear suddenly sent an arrow sailing into Boone’s chest. Omri was terribly upset and made Little Bear pull out the arrow and repair the wound, in an attempt to save the unconscious cowboy; Little Bear felt awful bad but Omri was not sympathetic. Back upstairs Omri tried to make the wounded man as comfortable as possible and Little Bear stomped his headdress to bits and ran off.
Omri and Patrick did not want to go to sleep that night because they wanted to make sure that Boone was okay, but they had to pretend they were getting ready to sleep when Omri’s mother came in to say goodnight. She told them that Gillon’s rat had gotten loose and was in the floorboards beneath Omri’s bed. Immediately Omri wanted to find the rat because he was worried that it would get to Boone and Little Bear in the night, but he waited until his mother left the room before prying at the boards to see what was beneath. He had a second reason for wanting to see beneath the floor: he knew that his key must have fallen down there when his father lifted the floorboards earlier that day.
Omri found a candle and used his bedside light to see beneath the one plank he had lifted, but he did not find once. Little Bear came out, and Omri asked him to please crawl beneath the floor to look for the key, which the Indian did without trouble. When he was down there, Omri worried that he would get eaten by the rat, having forgotten that the rodent was there. After a bit of time, Little Bear ran to the opening, trailed by the rat, and jumped into Omri’s hand with the key held tight to his chest.
Omri immediately used the key to bring the war medic, Tommy, back to life. Tommy was surprised to see Patrick but tended to Boone right away. He bandaged him up, gave him some brandy, and gave Little Bear pills for the cowboy to take when he wakes. After Tommy went back into the cupboard Boone woke and caused an argument with Little Bear about cowboys and Indians. Little Bear lost his calm and nearly stabbed Boone until Omri reminded him harshly that a chief should be better at keeping his temper. Omri told Little Bear he would get no wife that night because of what happened with Boone, but he would the next day.
Patrick fell right asleep, and Omri wanted to, but he lie awake and wondered what he would with the little men now. If he brought the Indian girl to life then there would be one woman and two men, which could cause problems, and someday maybe even children. He knew that he must send the men back to where they came from. Omri drifted off, and when he opened his eyes it was dawn and everyone was sleeping, even Little Bear who was supposed to be watching Boone.
Omri placed the Indian girl in the cupboard, waited ten seconds, and then opened the door and got back into bed. He watched the girl come out of the cupboard and walk over to Little Bear and Boone. She said down and waited, unwilling to wake the Indian. Little Bear woke when he heard a bird and immediately he and the Indian girl had a connection. He showed her his longhouse and told Omri that he wants to marry her right away and wants Boone to live in the house so the girl, Bright Stars, can care for him. Over the next few days, Patrick and Omri tried to spend as much time with the men as possible, knowing they would part ways soon.
Boone got better, and Omri planned a blood brothers ceremony for Boone and Little Bear, along with a feast. The night of the feast everyone was supremely happy, and the two men became blood brothers. Little Bear asked Omri to send them home that night, while they were all joyous. Omri was sad as he got everyone into the cupboard, making sure that Little Bear held on to Bright Stars so they could return together but did not touch Boone because he needed to go back to his own time.
It was an emotional goodbye for the boys and their friends and Little Bear made Omri his blood brother, as well. The cupboard was shut, and the key turned, and when it was opened the figures were plastic once again. Omri gave his mother the key, so he would not be tempted to use it but still knew where it was, and he and Patrick decided to leave the cupboard empty, just in case.
Vronsky goes to the railway station to meet his mother. He runs into Prince Oblonsky who is there to meet his sister’s train. The two women have actually traveled down together, although do not know each other. Oblonsky and Vronsky talk about Konstantin Levin and Vronsky surmises that Konstantin has proposed to Kitty. He feels a sense of satisfaction to know that she turned down Konstantin’s proposal. Vronsky’s mother arrives – it is revealed that he neither loves nor respects her, but shows both love and respect to her in person.
Vronsky notices Anna Karenina, Oblonsky’s sister, as she steps off the train and feels an instant attraction which his mother senses. She chatters about Anna and tells him that the young woman misses her little son. Vronsky and his mother begin to leave but there is a sudden commotion and they learn a guard has been killed by a train. His wife is present and Vronsky decides to give her some money. The reader infers that this is done to impress Anna, and indeed she has an uneasy feeling – she tells her brother that the guard’s death is an evil omen.
Anna arrives at her brother’s house and immediately goes to Dolly. Her sister-in-law is very depressed but welcomes Anna, whom she likes. Anna visits with her nieces and nephews and then has coffee with Dolly – she tells Dolly that Stepan has told her about the affair and that she is very sorry. Dolly complains that Stepan feels no remorse but Anna says he feels very badly. She tries to calm her sister-in-law, telling her not to torture herself, that Stepan would always put his wife and children before a mistress. She asks Dolly to try to forgive her husband.
Stepan, Dolly and Anna dine together. Stepan is optimistic that Dolly will forgive him. Her sister Kitty comes to call and to meet Anna for the first time; Anna and Kitty hit it off. Anna encourages her brother to spend time with his wife after dinner and she and Kitty entertain the children. They talk about a ball that is to be held the next week and Anna tells Kitty she met Count Vronsky at the railway station. She does not tell Kitty about his donation to the guard’s widow because she believes Vronsky was only trying to impress her.
Later that day Dolly discusses Anna’s sleeping arrangements and soon Stepan joins them. Anna hopes they have reconciled but Dolly is still rather cool toward him. When she begins to tease him in a normal manner, Anna is relieved. Later that evening Anna goes to get her photo album to show everyone her son’s pictures and as she goes Count Vronsky comes to the house. Anna catches a glimpse of him and feels both pleasure and dread. He sees her and looks slightly embarrassed. He leaves the house without joining them which impresses everyone as slightly unusual.
The ball is held and Kitty has many admirers. She looks beautiful and is soon dancing with Korsunsky, a married man. As she dances she spots Vronsky – it is the first time she has seen him since Konstantin Levin proposed. She and Korsunsky see Anna after the first dance – she looks charming in black velvet. Korsunsky asks Anna to dance and as he does, Vronsky appears and greets Anna, but she ignores him. Vronsky seems distracted and hardly notices Kitty at first but then they begin to waltz.
Kitty dances with Vronsky several times and he promises to dance the mazurka with her later. Kitty dances with many partners during the evening. At one point she sees Vronsky and Anna dancing together. Anna looks radiantly happy as does Vronsky; she senses a mutual attraction. Kitty is close enough to hear what they are saying, but it is merely small talk. She becomes upset and wants to go home. Countess Nordston says that Vronsky asked Anna to dance the mazurka with him but she reminded him that he promised that dance to Kitty. In the end Anna leaves the ball early.
As Konstantin Levin leaves Kitty’s house he broods about his lack of social graces and then decides to seek out his brother Nikolai. He goes to the hotel where Nikolai lives, thinking about his brother’s past as a religious student who was jeered at and then as a man who lived a debauched life. He sees his gaunt and sickly brother. He seems happy to see Konstantin but then tells him he does not want to see family members. He introduces Konstantin to the two people with him – Mr. Kritsky who he says is prosecuted by the authorities. The woman he introduces as Marya Nikolaevna (Masha), his girlfriend who he has rescued from a brothel. Konstantin stays to dine with them.
Nikolai is plotting against the aristocrats: he has adopted some communistic ideals. He is organizing locksmiths in a nearby village. He rails against their brother Sergey’s writings. When Mr. Kritsky leaves Nikolai labels him as “no good” as well. Konstantin has a chance to speak to Marya alone. She says Nikolai is very ill and drinking excessively. Later Konstantin and Nikolai talk about Konstantin’s life and their shared past. Konstantin suggests his brother move in with him. Nikolai says he wants to avoid Sergey at all costs. Eventually he gets very drunk and Konstantin and Marya put him to bed.
Konstantin returns to his country estate and immediately feels better. Moscow is a bad fit for him and he wants to live a simpler and better life, valuing what he has. He is willing to give up his passion for Kitty and keep track of Nikolai. He agrees with Nikolai that there are injustices in the Russian system but does not think it needs to be completely overthrown. When he reaches the farm he greets the news of its progress while he was away with a mixture of frustration and happiness.
Konstantin reflects on how living on the estate, which had belonged to his parents, is very important. He longs to have a wife and children to share it. He idealizes married life, and women in particular (his mother died when he was young). He is worried he might have to give his dream up. As he rests and reads in his study and half-listens to his housekeeper Agafea chat and gossip, he dreams about a future with a wife and family. His housekeeper notices Konstantin’s low-spirits as he sadly caresses his dog’s head.
Anna decides to leave Moscow the morning after the ball and lets her husband know telegram know she is coming home to Petersburg on the evening train. Dolly senses her sister-in-law’s dark mood but Anna assures her it is nothing and it will pass. She thanks Anna for helping her and mentions Anna has no skeletons in her past. Anna disagrees confessing that Kitty was jealous of her spending time with Vronsky at the ball. Anna has mixed feelings about Vronsky but it is obvious he is interested in her. Stepan arrives to take Anna to the train station.
Anna and her servant get on the train; she is happy to be going home. She tries to concentrate on a novel but her mind wanders to what happened in Moscow. She thinks about Vronsky she feels something like shame and realizes she does not want to examine her feelings too closely. When the train stops at a station she gets out – metaphorically leaving the heat of the train carriage to shake off the heat of her disturbing thoughts and entering the cold to clear her head.
A snowstorm is raging outside the train and the station is bustling. Anna suddenly sees a man in military uniform – it is Vronsky. He asks her politely if he can help her. She feels joy and though she knows why he is there, she asks him anyway. He replies he wants to see her – she rebuffs him and gets back on the train. Overnight she sleeps fitfully due to the happiness she feels about Vronsky. When Anna meets her husband at the station she only notices his physical and personal deficiencies. She greets him by asking him if their son is well.
Vronsky is on the train with Anna, sitting up all night, high on his feelings for Anna. He is not concerned about where this might lead; his thoughts are all in the moment. He is glad he told her how he felt. He gets out at Petersburg with hope of seeing her. Vronsky is shaken to see her husband. He notices Anna’s reserve with Karenin. Vronsky approaches and asks if she had a good night; her husband looks at him with displeasure, recognizing Vronsky. Vronsky asks if he can call on them. Karenin agrees and then the couple head off. Karenin urges Anna to call on Lidia Ivanovna, an important woman in Petersburg society.
Anna’s son Seryozha is ecstatic to see her back. Anna feels a bit disappointed on seeing her son despite her love for him. She tells him about his cousins. Later the grande dame of Petersburg society, Lidia Ivanovna, is announced. Anna had always liked Lidia but now she saw the woman with all her defects. Lidia inquired if things had been settled with Dolly and Stepan. She soon launches into a recital of local news. After she leaves Anna has another gossiping guest and then is alone. She sorts through correspondence and begins to feel she is back to normal and the upset of Vronsky recedes.
Anna’s husband Alexey is a busy man and keeps a tight his schedule. When he comes home that evening the couple keep busy – he with business and she with guests. After the evening meal he goes to a council meeting and Anna decides to stay home. She spends the evening with her son and feels virtuous. When Alexey returns they speak about her trip and his council activities. He retires to read – Alexey is a voracious reader. Anna reminds herself that he is a good man. When he beckons her to their bedroom she feels deadened, there is no spark like she felt for Vronsky.
Vronsky returns to his apartment in Petersburg to find his friend Petritsky (whom he had lent his flat to while he was in Moscow) and two others there. They drink coffee and chat about their social mores – Baroness Shilton complains that her husband wants a divorce just because she has been unfaithful. Petritsky complains of money problems and discusses romance and fashions. Vronsky feels comfortable in this world of frivolity. Later he goes out to reintroduce himself to Petersburg society – in the hopes of meeting Anna Karenina.
Kitty Shtcherbatskaya has been ill for most of the winter and now it is spring, and she is still declining. Doctors (the family physician and an expert) have been called in to examine her. The expert believes Kitty is in the beginning stages of tuberculosis. He believes a modified diet is the best treatment. The family doctor thinks travel may help. Kitty herself believes she is not ill but suffering from a broken heart. It is decided that she should go abroad but not seek other treatment. Kitty and her mother begin to plan a trip.
Dolly, who has recently had a baby girl, arrives at her parents’ place to see how Kitty is. The family does not admit to Kitty having tuberculosis; they just say she should go abroad. Dolly will miss her. Stepan is rarely at home and there is a money shortage. Dolly suspects her husband of infidelity. Kitty insists her father come on the trip with them. He loves his youngest child but blurts out something that she relates to Vronsky and she cries and leaves the room. Dolly tells her mother about Konstantin Levin’s proposal; it is implied that she will convince her sister to reconsider it.
Dolly visits her sister in her bedroom and scolds for pining for Vronsky. She insists that the problem is Kitty took Vronsky’s attentions to Anna too seriously. Kitty gets very emotional when Dolly asks if Konstantin had proposed. She chides Dolly for tolerating Stepan’s infidelity and then begs for Dolly’s sympathy. Dolly believes her sister wishes she had not turned Konstantin down. Kitty now feels she is just a pawn in the marriage market. Everything seems repulsive. She insists she wants to stay with Dolly. She does but her health does not improve and in Lent the Shtcherbatskys went abroad.
There are several sets in Petersburg’s high society – Anna Karenina is a prominent member of the government set made up of serious clever people. The center of this circle is Countess Lidia Ivanovna. Anna is also familiar with the fashionable set. Anna’s closest friend in this set is Princess Betsy Tverskaya, Count Vronsky’s cousin. Anna had preferred the more serious set until she returned from Moscow. Vronsky is a member of the fashionable set and when they meet she was filled with joy. His cousin Betsy is aware of his passion and helps the couple meet.
Vronsky relates a story to his cousin Betsy about his mediation between a husband and wife that reflects his light hearted and light minded approach to life. He then goes to the French theater to tell the colonel of his regiment the results of his mediations. This goes back to an incident involving his friend Petritsky and one Prince Kedrov who had chased a woman home only to find out she was married. The husband was furious and his ruffled feathers needed to be soothed. The colonel laughs at the story and says it will be taken care of.
Princess Betsy is hosting a soiree at her home after the theatre with a group from the fashionable set including Vronsky. They discuss the actress in that night’s performance and other things, including alluding to the married Betsy’s relationship with a young man. They soon begin a wider range of gossip. Princess Myakaya is particularly admired in the group for her plain speech. The ambassador’s wife is speculating on the change in Anna Karenina and hints that it has something to do with Vronsky, calling him her “shadow”. Princess Myakaya defends Anna and says she is blameless if men admire her.
Princess Betsy is expecting Anna Karenin at her soiree. As she arrives, Vronsky stands up – they are both acutely aware of the other but pretend nonchalance. The group begin talking of arranged marriages being preferred and Vronsky makes pointed remarks about passion tearing those unions apart. Anna says she has information that Kitty Shtcherbatskaya is very ill. Vronsky confronts her privately and she accuses him of having no honor as far as Kitty is concerned. Vronsky implies that he made a mistake with Kitty but that he loves Anna. She wants him to go to Kitty and apologize. In the course of their conversation Vronsky realizes Anna loves him. Anna’s husband walks into the room and people begin darting glances at the two talking alone. Eventually Alexey leaves and Anna goes home later, saying her goodbyes to Vronsky; he is convinced Anna will be his.
Anna’s husband Alexey was not overly concerned about his wife talking with Vronsky but he did not like the other guest’s reactions so he decides to talk to her about it. Alexey is not jealous – he did not doubt his wife’s devotion. He is a rational man and avoids emotional upheavals. He now has to face the possibility of Anna loving another man. He is unsure of what to do. He is convinced nothing has really happened between the two, whatever their feelings might be. Alexey sees himself as a guide for Anna – to show her what her proper actions should be. He is not very concerned about her feelings. He hears Anna coming in.
Anna comes in and greets her husband, surprised that Alexey is still up. He tells her he wants to talk to her. She responds with surprise that is not entirely sincere. He warns her that her demeanor around Vronsky is fueling gossip. Anna says she has no idea of what he is talking about. Her denial makes him angry but she faces him calmly. Alexey tells her she has a duty to behave as a proper wife whatever her feelings are. He declares his love for her and mentions she is putting their son at risk. Anna continues to deny anything is wrong. They go to sleep.
The Karenins continued their life as they always had. Anna was able to see Vronsky on a regular basis often thanks to Princess Betsy. Husband Alexey finds he cannot penetrate Anna’s surface calm – a barrier has sprung up. He is convinced that as he is powerful strong man and he should be able to fix his marriage. He hopes by being kind and attentive he will get through to her. But Anna has become distant and he senses deceit in her.
A year has passed since Vronsky and Anna met and finally she has declared her love to him. They have experience some physical expression of their passion. She feels much guilt and likens what she has done to murder, with all its resultant mess and cover-up. She leaves Vronsky, not wanting to speak about what they have done. She hopes to think about it all when she is calmer but this does not happen. That night she has vivid dreams about both Vronsky and Alexey, both playing the part of husbands. The dreams make her wake in terror.
Konstantin Levin has been back on his farm for three months; he still holds onto his dream of a wife and family. He knows being alone so much is not good for him. He has no interest in the women he does know as marriage partners. However strong his feelings life on his estate does distract him and thoughts of Kitty begin to lessen. He also hears from Marya that his brother Nikolai’s health has deteriorated. Konstantin had convinced his brother to see a doctor and go abroad for his health. He spends much of his time working on agricultural improvements. Spring arrives and the landscape is transformed.
With the arrival of spring Konstantin is energized for farm work. He takes care of his cattle, supervises the repair of machinery and buildings – he is frustrated that this has not been done over the winter. He feels his workers are lazy and complains to his bailiff who merely says little can be expected of peasants. Konstantin blames the bailiff but not aloud. He does not want to alienate him; his bailiffs never seem to be as forward-thinking as he is. Konstantin takes his favorite horse out for a ride around the estate – he enjoys the ride. The reader is shown how the farm is run, Konstantin’s relationship with the land and his relationship with the workers.
When Konstantin arrives home he hears the bell at the principal entrance of the house. He is eager for a visitor and happy to see it is Stepan Oblonsky. His first thought is to find out how Kitty is. Stepan says he is there to do some shooting and to sell off some of his land. He brings him the news of Moscow including the fact that Konstantin’s half-brother Sergey may visit the farm soon. Konstantin tells Stepan his plans for the farm. After a hearty country meal the men go out to shoot. Stepan hints that he has found a new, perfect woman.
The men go out to shoot, taking Konstantin’s dog Laska. They choose a spot by a stream for their stand-shooting. The area is redolent with spring. Konstantin fancies to himself that he can hear the glass growing. The reader is again presented with the motif of nature and its bounty, awakening from the long Russian winter. Stepan takes down a bird (a snipe) which Laska retrieves. The men shoot two more birds each. The sky begins to darken and the stars come out. Konstantin decides it is time to ask about Kitty. Stepan tells him she is very ill and she may not live.
Returning home, Konstantin asks Stepan about Kitty. He is happy that she may be available again but is also glad that she is suffering as she made him suffer. He dismisses Stepan’s explanation that Vronsky broke Kitty’s heart. He changes the subject to Stepan’s selling some forested land to a businessman. Stepan thinks he is getting an excellent price. Konstantin thinks he is selling it too low. When they get back to the house Ryabinin is there to talk the deal over with Stepan. Ryabinin wants the price lowered; Konstantin tells him off, saying the price was agreed to. He offers to buy the forest himself. Ryabinin quickly pulls out the money, hands it to Stepan and leaves.
Stepan now has a down payment from a buyer on the forested land. He is happy: he has money and he enjoys the shooting. Konstantin is in a dark mood. He is upset that Kitty is ill over Vronsky and angry about Stepan’s sale. Stepan argues that arguing over pennies is not what people with class do. Stepan begins to charm Konstantin’s servant Agafea while his friend sits in gloom. Later he asks Stepan where Vronsky is and he is told that the Count is in Petersburg. They discuss what an aristocrat is – Konstantin does not think Vronsky can be considered one. Stepan is aware that Konstantin would probably not think he was one either.
Vronsky’s great passions are Anna, his army regiment and horse racing. His is very popular with the regiment. Vronsky never speaks of Anna to any of his male companions, although their relationship is an open secret. The men in his society envy Vronsky his relationship – the women were happy that Anna’s sterling reputation has taken a hit. Vronksy’s mother was pleased with his liaison until he turned down a promotion so he could stay with his regiment in Petersburg to be near Anna. She sent Vronsky’s elder brother to talk sense to him.
Vronsky is at the races at Krasnoe Selo and goes to eat in the mess room of his regiment. He reads as he eats, to avoid conversation with the officers. He is thinking about Anna’s promise to see him later; she may not be able to do this as her husband has just returned. He thinks about visiting the Karenin’s summer place. His best friend in the regiment, Captain Yashvin, stops to talk. Yashvin is an immoral man with a commanding personality. Vronsky wants to tell him of his passion for Anna but is not sure he will understand. They leave together.
In the regimental camp Vronsky shares a hut with his friend Petritsky; Vronsky and Yashvin go in and they wake Petritsky up. Petritsky tells Vronsky his older brother has been by and will return later. Vronsky’s horses pull up to take him to the Karenin’s. He says he is going somewhere else, but the other men are not fooled although they say nothing. Before he leaves Petritsky remembers Vronsky’s brother has left a letter and a note. Vronsky reads the letter, from his mother, and knows his brother is there to talk about Anna. Vronsky is eager to leave and departs for Petersburg.
Vronsky goes to see his racing mare but he really wants to her see rival, Gladiator. His trainer says Vronsky is the better rider for a steeplechase. The trainer warns him that his horse (Frou-Frou) is nervous. The horse is not a perfect specimen but she is an excellent racer. The trainer tells Vronsky that it’s best he not to get excited before a race. Vronsky feels as though everyone wants to know what he is doing. On his way to Peterhof he reads the letter from his mother and is angry at her interference. He believes he is truly in love with Anna but worried it will be her ruin he decides to end their relationship.
Vronsky hopes to find Anna at home alone at her country villa. The gardener tells him she is alone. He knows he will surprise her and also hopes her son is not about, who complicates the relationship. Seryozha is confused about Vronsky even though his mother and Vronsky act with decorum around him. Today the boy is out and Anna is outside waiting for him. She is startled to see Vronsky and he feels she is troubled. Finally she tells him – she is pregnant. Vronsky says she must leave her husband and come to him. Anna does not know how they can accomplish this.
Vronsky is relieved that there is now a concrete reason for them to be together. Anna has not told her husband she is pregnant. She is surprised by Vronsky’s decisive reaction – she had been worried he would not take it seriously. Anna warns Vronsky her husband will tell her to stay, and will do anything to prevent scandal. Vronsky suggests they run away. Anna does not like the idea of being his mistress and secretly fears that all this will ruin her son. They are worried they have made each other unhappy but both deny it. Seryozha returns, Anna goes to him, but promises to meet Vronsky later, after the races.
Vronsky leaves Anna’s to complete another errand but realizes he is late. He knows he return to the race course barely in time for his own race but he does make it. Before it begins his brother Alexander finds him. His brother leads a dissolute life at court but is an important man. Vronsky tells Alexander not to meddle in his life. Soon after Stepan Oblonsky greets Vronsky and they arrange to meet the next day. He hears that the Karenins are there but does not look for Anna. He mounts Frou-Frou, who is still skittish. The race begins and Vronsky and Frou-Frou are quickly in third place.
Seventeen officers were riding in the steeplechase race, being watched by the tsar and other members of court. As the three lead runners attempt to clear a stream, Vronsky fears he will land on the horse in front. Miraculously Frou-Frou lands beyond it. Only Gladiator is ahead of them. Frou-Frou catches up to Gladiator, ridden by Mahotin, and passes them. Vronsky is way ahead but something happens when he reseats and Frou-Frou goes crashing to the ground. Vronsky can’t get her up. The horse has broken her back and must be destroyed. Vronsky is filled with remorse as he blames himself. This would be the bitterest memory of his life.
Alexey Karenin has been abroad after the long winter and in July has returned to Petersburg. Anna is at their country villa. They have not spoken of her affair again. Lidia Ivanovna also has a summer place at Peterhof but she has not seen Anna there this year. She warns Alexey about the continued presence of Vronsky with Anna, abetted by Princess Betsy. Alexey cut her short, scolding her for her comments. In truth, Alexey knows he is being deceived by his wife. His doctor comes to see him and tells him he is not in good health. After a busy day Alexey goes to the villa and on to the races afterward.
Anna sees Alexey arrive at the villa and she is disappointed that he has come, hoping he will not stay the night. He has brought a friend Mihail with him. Mihail leaves them alone and Alexey tells Anna about the doctor’s visit and that he may not be well. Their son comes in to see Alexey – the young boy is uneasy with his father. Anna asks Alexey if he will be coming back to the villa after the races and he says yes. Princess Betsy comes for Anna and she leaves, shuddering over the kiss Alexey planted on her hand.
Anna sits in the pavilion with Betsy and soon Alexey is there as well. He joins a military official but Anna can hear his voice from where she is sitting. Alexey is ignoring his inner agitation about Anna and Vronsky by socializing. Stepan Oblonsky arrives and is ingratiatingly charming, asking Princess Betsy to bet on the horses. When the race begins, Alexey watches Anna whose face is white. He subconsciously knows she is worried about Vronsky falling. A man is fatally injured on the course but Anna hardly notices. Many of the officers are down before the race even ends.
When Vronsky falls off his horse Anna is desperate to get to him. Alexey offers to take her to see how Vronsky is but she refuses. An officer comes by and tells the crowd Vronsky is not hurt but the horse’s back is broken. Anna bursts into tears of relief. Alexey convinces her to go home with him even though she is desperate to see Vronsky. In the carriage he says that her behavior is unacceptable. Anna admits him that she loves Vronsky and is his mistress. Alexey leaves her at home alone. Anna receives a note from Princess Betsy saying Vronsky is alright and he will be by later.
The Shtcherbatskys are in Germany at a watering-place where upper class people go for their health. Kitty is presented to a German princess and also meets an English Lady and a German countess and other exalted people. The family spends most of its time with other Russians. Kitty wants to get to know the Russian girl Varenka, who is a companion to the invalid Madame Stahl. Varenka seems to have a purpose in life, which Kitty lacks. Soon a Russian couple arrives – Konstantin Levin’s brother Nikolai and his girlfriend Marya. Kitty has a very negative reaction to them, especially after being told Nikolai is Konstantin’s brother.
It is a rainy day at the watering-place and the visitors are under the arcade. Kitty avoids Nikolai who is walking on the other side. Varenka is there with a blind woman and Kitty asks her mother is she may speak to her. The princess tells her she will ask Madame Stahl about Varenka before she gives her permission. Suddenly Nikolai is shouting at a German doctor and Kitty and her mother hurry away. Later they find out Varenka intervened and led Nikolai away. Kitty nags her mother to make Varenka’s acquaintance. The next day the princess introduces herself to Varenka and introduces Kitty as well.
Madame Stahl, the princess finds out, has an intriguing background. After separating from her husband, she gave birth to a child who died soon after birth. The cook of the household had had a baby the same night and this child, Varenka, was given to Madame. Madame is a complete invalid and a very religious woman. Varenka has lived most of her life abroad and has been well educated. The princess asks Varenka to play the piano and sing for them, which she does very well. Kitty finds out that Varenka has been disappointed in love – the man married someone else. The girls talk about Kitty’s shame about Vronsky and Varenka tells her she is overreacting.
Kitty makes friends with Madame Stahl and her new friendships help her own distress. Kitty begins to take more interest in religion under the influence of Madame and Varenka. She is not altogether sure of Madame’s religious sincerity. Kitty dreams of helping the down and out but she does not share her thoughts with anyone. Her mother does notice Kitty is mimicking Varenka more and more and that she is becoming more spiritual and less interested in their social scene. Kitty has been helping an artist’s wife – he, Petrov, has tuberculosis – but his wife turns cool toward her after he shows an attachment to Kitty.
Prince Shtcherbatsky, who has been away, returns to his wife and daughter. Unlike his wife, the prince found foreign life difficult and is a true Russian in every sense. He returns to find Kitty recovered, which pleases him. His is worried about her new attachment to Varenka and Madame. The prince and Kitty visit the spring, where many sick and dying people are gathered to find a cure. Kitty introduces him to her new friends, including Varenka. It turns out the prince knows Madame, and knew her before she became so religious. They meet Petrov and his wife and then Madame Stahl. The prince’s view of Madame makes Kitty think less of her.
The prince, a sociable man, has invited the resident Russians over for a tea and entertains everyone with his cheerfulness and wit. Kitty is worried about the Petrovs, and the change in their relationship. Varenka gets up to leave and Kitty follows her to the house. Kitty asks Varenka if she can help her assist the Petrovs – they are packing to leave; Varenka refuses. She tells Kitty that Mrs. Petrov is jealous of Kitty. Kitty blames herself, saying this comes from trying to better herself. She tells herself she is not suited to a life of helping others. She begs Varenka’s forgiveness and she promises to visit Kitty when she marries. Kitty returns to Moscow, cured and happier.
Sergey Koznishev comes to stay with his half-brother Konstantin Levin in May. Konstantin loves the country for its own sake – Sergey for its escape from the corrupt influences of the city. Konstantin was annoyed that Sergey politicizes the peasant into more than an ordinary person doing ordinary labor. Konstantin regards the peasant as he regards any man – some are good, some are bad. Sergey regards them as a class which he approves of. Konstantin feels his brother’s attitude to the peasants is too intellectualized. While the brothers relax together, Konstantin worries about the work he is not doing.
Summer wears on and it is hay-making time. Konstantin and Sergey go to observe it and Konstantin leaves Sergey to do some fly-fishing. When he returns Konstantin runs into one of the peasant workers and consults him about hay mowing and the weather. He collects Sergey who wants to talk about the district council. That morning a young doctor had come to the house to tend to housekeeper Agafea’s sprained wrist and, impressed by Sergey’s stature as a writer, had told him about the poor state of the council. Konstantin has no interest in talking but wants to return home to do further farm business.
Sergey urges Konstantin to stay involved with local affairs via the council. Konstantin replies that he has tried but can accomplish nothing. He is distracted by his own concerns about the farm. Sergey accuses Konstantin of not caring about providing the peasants with medical care or schools. Konstantin is upset with this criticism. He states that overeducating the peasants and other improvements will not suit his needs. The brothers argue. Sergey reminds Konstantin that they had supported ending serfdom. Konstantin agrees but says he has no talent or interest in running rural affairs. Sergey brings up many philosophical arguments that make Konstantin withdraw.
Konstantin ponders his love of scythe mowing while he is talking with his brother. He knows he needs regular physical exercise and enjoys mowing– but is afraid Sergey will laugh at him. Eventually he tells him and Sergey is skeptical – saying Konstantin would not be able to do it. One morning Konstantin gets up early and joins his peasants at mowing. As he mows his peasants quietly criticize his technique. Konstantin finds it very tiring but satisfactory work. He continues losing all sense of time and ignoring the rain. Konstantin leaves when it is lunch time and finds Sergey just getting up.
Konstantin returns to mowing after his lunch. He mows with an old experienced man and a young inexperienced man, Mishka. The easiest times were when he did the actions subconsciously and he had the best results. Konstantin enjoys the physicality of the work and being out of doors with nature. The reader gets an excellent sense of the average work day of the peasants as the author incorporates it into the narrative. Konstantin eats with the men and starts to feel a great affection for them. He knows their work output is better than it was under serfdom and they work cheerfully.
Konstantin returns home after dusk; Sergey has already had his dinner. Konstantin tells his brother about his day. He sits down to eat and Sergey tells him there is a letter from Oblonsky. Oblonsky urges him to visit Dolly, who is in some distress. Konstantin is eager to do this, and to take Sergey with him. Sergey says he spoke to some people in the village and they do not fully approve of Konstantin’s mowing. Sergey begins talking about philosophy and Konstantin only half-listens. He decides to go to the counting-house but to check up on Agafea’s wrist first.
Stepan Oblonsky is in Petersburg reminding the civil service of his existence and spending money like crazy. Darya (Dolly) and the six children are at their country place, Ergushovo, trying to live frugally. It is about forty miles from Konstantin’s. Stepan has fixed it up as best he could but the author notes that he has a difficult time remembering he has a wife and children. At first Ergushovo is run down and non-productive, the family barely has enough food. The bailiff is useless but she has one excellent servant – Marya Philimonovna. Marya has the place running smoothly within a week. Dolly’s children keep her busy and she has little time to worry about her husband.
Towards the end of May Stepan agrees to visit his family in the country and tend to the problems there. He won’t arrive until the beginning of June. Meanwhile Dolly has taken the children to church, to receive communion, which they have not done in nearly a year. Everyone is dressed up and looking beautiful and the children behave well. Afterwards they go mushroom picking and swimming and have a wonderful time, including Dolly. Some peasant women come by and Dolly gets up her nerve to talk to them about their roles as mothers.
Dolly arrives home with the children and finds Konstantin there. She is glad he is seeing them looking so well. Konstantin looks at them and wishes for a family of his own. Dolly does not realize Stepan had asked him to visit her. He is slightly embarrassed that Stepan has done this and Dolly appreciates his sensitivity, and she too is frustrated with Stepan. The children feel at ease with Konstantin although they do not remember him. Later Dolly tells him Kitty is coming for the summer. He blushes and changes the subject, saying he will look over her cows for her. They talk about the cattle although both would prefer to discuss Kitty.
Dolly tells Kitty is better but wants a quiet time in the country. She asks Konstantin why he has been angry with Kitty. He denies this but then admits Kitty turned down his proposal. Dolly says she did not know this. She explains to him that his expectations were unfair of Kitty and that he should have given her more time. She tells him Kitty’s lack of experience meant she lacked judgment about Vronsky. Konstantin stubbornly refuses to give Kitty another chance and his good mood is gone. When two of her children begin to physically fight Dolly is upset as well. A happy day has been spoiled for both of them.
Konstantin has a sister and in July the elder of her village comes to see him about her estate which Konstantin manages. The elder is worried that there is underhanded business going on concerning the division of the hay (the peasants are allowed to keep some). Konstantin goes to the farm and gets vague and unsatisfactory answers about the hay. He proves that not as much hay has been cut as the peasants say. He settles the dispute and then watches the peasants at work. The author again uses an opportunity to reveal to the reader the daily life of the peasants.
Konstantin listens to the peasants sing as they finish the haying. Konstantin envies their joy in life and wish he could share it. He enjoys his life but realizes the life of the peasant is more authentic. He mulls over how he could make his life better and feels he is at a turning point in his life. As he is thinking a carriage goes by with an old lady and a young woman whom he recognizes as Kitty. He suddenly forgets his dreams of a peasant-like life and is under Kitty’s spell once again.
Alexey Karenin is weakened by tears – if he is confronted with him, he loses his resolve. After Anna confesses her relationship with Vronsky, she begins to cry. Alexey represses any reaction. He tells her he will let her know his decision the next day. Leaving her, he experiences a feeling of relief to know the truth, that Anna is a corrupt woman. He is indifferent to her but not to his situation and thinks it over. Alexey thinks of having a duel with Vronsky but dismisses it as barbaric activity, but in truth he is a coward. Divorce would be a public scandal but perhaps they could live separately; however this might allow Anna to be with Vronsky. He wants her punished. He decides to keep Anna with him and “reform” her.
As he travels to Petersburg, Alexey Karenin thinks about writing a letter to his wife and begins it at once when he arrives home. He writes that they cannot break up a union made by a “higher power” and they must stay together for their son’s sake. He asks her to return to Petersburg and encloses some money for her expenses. He is proud that he has not been harsh. He finds a comfortable chair in his study and is soon engrossed mulling over problems from his job as a civil servant.
Anna’s thoughts are in contrast to her husband’s – she thinks she no longer will have to live a life of deception. She sees Vronsky that evening but does not tell him what happened. The next day she is wracked with remorse over what she said to Alexey. She is now terrified of disgrace, that her husband would turn her out. Anna receives a note from Princess Betsy, Vronsky’s cousin, asking her to come over. She is also told her son has been naughty and she suddenly realizes with terror that she cannot lose her son. Anna imagines leaving with Seroyzha and just one servant. She writes notes to her husband and Vronsky telling them she is leaving and begins to pack for Moscow.
As Anna is packing to leave Alexey his letter arrives. He demands she come to their home in Petersburg. Although Anna realizes he is giving her what she thought she wants – her old life back with no disgrace and being under Alexey’s care, she is upset. She feels Alexey is exhibiting Christian forbearance on one hand but she knows him to be manipulative and emotionally cold. She feels she has been cheated of love and begins to cry. She agonizes over how to answer Alexey’s but then simply writes that she received his note. She delays leaving for a day and goes to Princess Betsy’s.
Anna goes to Princess Betsy’s hoping to see Vronsky. When she arrives his footman is there with a note. She remembers that Vronsky had said he wouldn’t be going to Betsy’s. Although Anna is unhappy she feels better to be out in society rather than at home. Betsy notices she is not herself and Anna says she slept badly. The princess insists that Anna stay for tea and Betsy reads Vronsky’s note, saying he will not be coming. Anna gives his footman a note to tell Vronsky to meet her later at Madame Vrede’s. The ladies have tea and gossip.
Two guests, unknown to Anna, arrive at Betsy’s – they are Sappho Shtolz (a woman) and Vaska (a man). Vaska is obviously entranced with Sappho, who was the “latest thing” on the social scene and oozed sensuality. They also have brought along Prince Kaluzhsky, who arrives a few minutes later with other guests. One of them, Liza, attaches herself to Anna, professing to be an admirer. She says she is bored of society. Liza is with her uncle, Stremov, Anna’s husband’s enemy in government. Anna says she is going to Madame Vrede’s and they entreat her to stay. Anna is tempted but knows she has to face her future, and quickly.
A few times a year Vronsky puts his affairs in order. This puts him in a bad mood and his friend Petritsky stays out of his way. Vronsky sorts out his debts and places each one in priority lists – many are related to gambling. Other debts can be ignored for a while – they are to tailors, hotels, and the like. Vronsky has a small income from his late father’s estate but his married brother gets most of it, as Vronsky’s insistence. His mother will no longer send money as she disapproves of his love affair. Vronsky is living beyond his means. He sees only one solution – to borrow from a money-lender.
Vronsky lives by a code – for example, debts must be paid to other gamblers but not to tradesmen, one does not lie to a man but it is permissible to lie to a woman. Vronsky’s conscience is clear as long as he sticks to his principles. Now his relationship with Anna has strained his code. He regards her as an honorable woman who commanded respect. Anna’s pregnancy is forcing Vronsky to face a moral dilemma. He also has personal ambition in his army career. A childhood rival, Prince Serpuhovsky, is now a rival in the army.
Vronsky goes out to join Petritsky at a colonel’s dance at a large country house. There are singers, a band and barrels of vodka. Serpuhovsky is there – Vronsky has not seen him for three years. Vronsky observes that he looks well, successful and confident. He greets Serpuhovsky and serious socializing begins. Serpuhovsky wants Vronsky to join a political party to take charge of Russia which he sees as in decline. He says he and Vronsky are incorruptible as they are independently wealthy. He offers Vronsky a prestigious place in this political party and Vronsky replies that he is happy with how things are. Serpuhovsky indirectly warns him that a woman can be a man’s downfall. Vronsky quickly leaves after receiving a note from Princess Betsy.
Vronsky leaves the dance to meet Anna who had sent for him through Princess Betsy. He is feeling euphoric. When he sees Anna she tells him that she has told her husband everything. Vronsky thinks that he will have to duel Karenin. Anna unvoiced thoughts are that she will have to go on with her old life, but would give it all up if Vronsky says the word. Vronsky reads her husband’s letter; he is unsure if Anna should stay with her husband or leave him. She tells him she will not leave without her son. They part without making a firm decision but agree everything will be settled soon.
Alexey Karenin faces the Committee for the Reorganization of the Native Tribes and puts his points on the line, facing much opposition, but triumphs in the end. The day following his triumph he has forgotten Anna is to return that day. He does not greet her when she returns home as he is shut up in his study working. Anna waits a few hours and finally goes to him. He finds it difficult to speak to her. Finally he tells her he will not speak of her transgression and they can go on as before, as long as he is not disgraced. He asks her not to see Vronsky again.
Konstantin is tortured by thoughts that his estate is successful due to the labor of the peasants. Konstantin wants the peasants to work harder for his benefit – they simply want to work and live with little hassle. They are resistant to the changes that would make the estate more profitable. They do not deliberately sabotage his efforts but do not see why they should change their ways. Konstantin longs to see Kitty but will not go to Dolly’s to see her. He still resents her feelings for Vronsky. To distract himself he goes to see his friend Sviazhsky.
Konstantin takes his own carriage to visit Sviazhsky. On his way he stops at an old peasant’s home to refresh his horses and himself. The author uses the action to describe a typical peasant’s home and its occupants. Konstantin discusses farm work with the peasants. He is fed dinner along with everyone else. The old man tells him he has been able to buy quite a bit of land. He tells Konstantin that the reason his farm is more successful than the large landowners’ is that they are all peasants working together. Konstantin leaves for Sviazhsky’s, thinking about the peasant’s farm.
Sviazhsky is a few years older than Konstantin and has long been happily. His sister-in-law lives with them. Konstantin knows Sviazhsky would like her married to Konstantin, who dismisses the idea. Sviazhsky does not respect the nobility – he thinks Russia is ruined and the government useless. However he is a noble himself and works within the system. He regards the peasant as of a lower order but gets along well with them. He is an exemplary man in many ways but Konstantin does not fully understand his happiness. Other landowners visit and Konstantin is forced to sit with Sviazhsky’s sister-in-law who is wearing a low-cut dress which he finds distracting. He rudely leaves them and joins the men’s conversation, where they are discussing agriculture.
One of the landowners complains about how farming is deteriorating in Russia – the peasants cannot be relied on to work well. Another landowner says success depends on how one treats the peasants; his approach is quite patriarchal. They discuss how renting some of their land directly to peasants might be better. One of the men proclaims that Russia has been ruined by the abolition of serfdom, that the landowners need more power over the peasants. The author uses the discussion to show the difference between the old ways and the new ways.
Konstantin returns home ready to change everything. His bailiff is not enthusiastic about Konstantin’s idea of laborers as shareholders. When he approaches the peasants with his idea they too are more concerned about their day-to-day chores. Some are suspicious that there might be more to his idea than he was telling them, that they would be taken advantage of in some way. They resist change, but Konstantin gets his way and soon the farm is at least partly running his way, with peasant partnerships. The end of summer comes and Konstantin learns that the Oblonskys have returned to Moscow. He spends much time studying economics, looking for the answers to Russia’s problems.
Konstantin goes to bed, promising to stay for another day. He borrows books on the farming labor problem from Sviazhsky who maintains the other landowners all support serfdom. Sviazhsky says that the cause of the peasantry’s poverty is their lack of education so schools are needed. Konstantin argues it is the system that makes the peasants poor and it must be fixed. Konstantin has trouble sleeping that night, thinking over the discussions of the evening before and formulating new arguments. He comes up with a new idea which excites him. He intends to go home early the next day to implement his idea.
Konstantin divides his profits with his peasants toward the end of the summer. He plans to go abroad to learn more about international agricultural practices. Heavy rains delay the harvest but Konstantin is confident things are improving. He is working on a book about his economic ideas. He works in his study but is suddenly shaken by thoughts of Kitty. Agafea, his housekeeper, scolds him for being so gloomy and saying he has done much for his peasants. She has been his sounding board for his ideas. She tells him he has a limited control how the peasants work – some are hard-working and some are lazy. A bell rings, signifying a visitor.
Konstantin’s brother Nikolai arrives. Konstantin is disappointed – he hoped for a visitor who would cheer him up. Nikolai looks very ill and even gaunter than before. A few weeks before Konstantin had written to Nikolai telling him he had sold some land and there was a share for him. Nikolai tells him he wants to stay at the old home for a couple of months. He tells Konstantin he has dropped Marya. He also says his health has been restored but in truth, he appears to be dying. This shakes Konstantin into brooding on the inevitability of death.
Nikolai, who had been in good spirits the night before, is now irritable. Konstantin thinks the stress is caused by not facing Nikolai’s dying. The day after that Nikolai tells him his new ideas for running the farm are not original but is a form of distorted socialism. Nikolai is confident that the time for communism will come but not quite yet. The brothers argue about how the peasants should be treated. Nikolai states that he is leaving and when the time comes they make an attempt to part amicably. After he leaves Konstantin departs for his trip abroad but he is very depressed and obsessed with thoughts of death.
The Karenins live their life as before, but as strangers to each other. Karenin sees Anna every day but avoids dining with her. Anna still sees Vronsky when she can. All three are miserable and hope the situation will somehow resolve itself. Vronsky has charge of a visiting foreign prince for a week in the winter. This prince is a robust individual who has enjoyed widespread travel and amusements. He wishes to experience all pleasures that Russia has to offer. Vronsky tires of him quickly but not before he sees himself in the prince and is mortified.
After the prince leaves Vronsky receives a note from Anna, asking that he visit as her husband is out. He lies down to nap and has a terrible dream. He goes to Anna’s and is worried that he is late – it is almost nine. He almost runs into Alexey Karenin leaving the house – the man barely acknowledges him and drives on. Vronsky feels the best way to settle everything would be to duel with Alexey. When he sees her, she is despair over his being late, and hints that the relationship must end.
Vronsky tells Anna he ran into Alexey at the gate. He lies about why he is late. He tells her how he did not enjoy the prince’s visit and how he sees his dissolute life reflected in his. Anna is somewhat jealous about another woman and he questions her trust of him. Lately she has been showing more jealousy which leaves him cold. She is not as physically attractive to him now but he stills feels the old passion. They discuss why Karenin is willing to put up with the situation. She says Karenin does not have normal feelings. Anna alludes that she will die in childbirth and that it is for the best. She tells him about a dream that is eerily similar to the one he’d just had.
When Karenin returns home from the opera he paces in his study for hours. He knows Anna has broken his imposed rules and wants to divorce her and keep their son. He does not sleep all night. In the morning he goes to Anna and asks for Vronsky’s love letters. They argue passionately. Anna understands Karenin’s anger, however much she despises him and feels sorry for him. He tells her he wants to end the marriage. And the lawyer will send her directions in the morning and their son is going to his sister’s. She begs him to leave the boy with her; he refuses.
Alexey Karenin visits his lawyer and he is waved in ahead of others waiting. He states he wants a divorce and to keep his son. The lawyer offers to tell him how this might be done. Adultery is grounds for divorce and is usually granted when both parties agree to the adultery. It is the simplest way of getting a divorce. Alexey does not like this – he wants to punish Anna in court by suing for divorce due to her infidelity. This kind of divorce is handled by the church. Karenin says he will be in touch in a week.
Karenin is under much pressure in his job as a government official and some government members hold him in contempt due to his wife’s adultery. He runs into Stepan and Dolly Oblonsky in Moscow – Stepan is Anna’s brother. He tells Stepan he has been too busy to tell them he was in town. Dolly asks how Anna is and he mumbles something and then Stepan asks him to come to dinner the next day.
The next day Stepan goes to a ballet rehearsal. He has taken up with a young ballerina, Masha. He tells her he will pick her up after the last act. At noon he goes to a hotel, Dussot’s, where Konstantin, Karenin, and the new head of his department, Count Anitchkin, are all staying. He wants to make sure Karenin will come to dinner later. There will be a number of other guests, including Kitty. Konstantin tells him he has been visiting the industrial cities of Europe. He still seems to be consumed with the topic of death. Stepan asks him to come to dinner later.
That Sunday in Moscow, Karenin spends most of the morning working on a deputation from the native tribes and composing a letter to his lawyer. In the letter he told the lawyer to act as he thought best and enclosed three notes from Vronsky to Anna. As he finishes he hears the voice of Stepan Oblonsky talking to his servant. Stepan comes into his room – Alexey coldly tells him that he cannot come to dinner and why. Stepan is devastated and begs Alexey to talk to Dolly before he takes further action against Anna. Alexey reluctantly agrees and then they speak of Stepan’s new boss, Anitchkin, before Stepan, now cheerful, leaves.
Stepan arrives home just as his first guests arrive for dinner, including two leading Moscow intellectuals, Koznishev (the Levin’s half-brother) and Pestsov, who respect each other but are usually in disagreement. Kitty is already there, as is her father and her cousin, Prince Shtcherbatsky and Karenin. Kitty tries to hide her nervousness about confronting Konstantin who has not yet arrived. Stepan manages to put everyone at ease. When Konstantin arrives he is told Kitty is there – he is full of joy and dread. When she sees him she is overwhelmed. The group discusses politics and hunting and Konstantin is the center of attention, on top of the world.
The men, particularly Karenin and Pestsov, discuss what civilization is and what constitutes a good education. Stepan is glad he invited Pestsov, as he will keep a conversation going. Most of the men agree that educating women is dangerous. Sergey Koznishev argues that women just want to share in the duties of civilization and that education will make them fit to do so. Pestsov says women are humiliated by the awareness of their own “disabilities”.
During the conversation, Konstantin and Kitty had remained silent. He feels no interest in the topic although Kitty has often thought about the rights of women before this evening. She and Konstantin are having a vague meandering conversation and both of them are feeling some exhilaration from just speaking together. She convinces him that one of the guests, Turovtsin, is really a wonderful man despite his former opinion, Konstantin happily agrees with her and says he will never think badly of anyone again.
As the ladies leave the room Pestsov begins to expand on his theory that men and women are not treated equally when it comes to infidelity. Suddenly Turovtsin tells the men that there has been a duel that day and that Vasya Pryatchnikov has killed Kvitsky. Karenin asks why they duelled and he was told it was over his wife. Karenin goes into the drawing-room and Dolly takes him into the schoolroom to talk about Anna. She can’t believe Anna has been unfaithful. He states he wants a divorce. Dolly pleads for Anna but he says he hates her. He leaves.
As Kitty moves to the drawing-room, Konstantin stays with the men so as not to seem too eager to be with her. She later comes back to thank him for coming. They discuss how futile it is for people to argue. They begin to talk about the role of single women and how they should be looked after. Kitty begins to play with a chalk on a card– table. Konstantin takes the chalk, writing out initials for the words he means to ask – was her refusal of his offer of marriage permanent? They play back and forth with initials and Konstantin understands that this time she is accepting his proposal.
Konstantin will go to see Kitty’s parents the next day but he is already impatient to see her. Konstantin expresses to Stepan how happy he is and how he values their friendship – Stepan teases him that perhaps it is not time to die yet. Dolly tells him how happy she is to see him and Kitty back together. Sergey takes Konstantin to a council meeting with him. Konstantin thinks everyone he meets is good at heart. His neighbor Sviazhsky asks him to come for tea soon. Konstantin returns to the hotel in a state of euphoria, loving everyone and unable to eat or sleep.
Early the next morning Konstantin goes to the Shtcherbatsky’s but returns to the hotel as no one is up. He has trouble eating breakfast and returns to Kitty’s house by nine but they are not receiving anyone until noon. Sleep and food-deprived, he is running on emotion. As he waits for noon, the author presents the world to us as seen through Konstantin’s euphoric gaze. When he greets Kitty, she too is dazed with emotion and lack of sleep. They communicate their love to each other and tell her parents they are to marry.
The Prince and Princess Shtcherbatsky are very happy for Kitty and Konstantin. Her parents discuss when the wedding will be – Konstantin wants it as soon as possible without a lot of fuss. Kitty asks for his forgiveness over her feelings for Vronsky. Konstantin begins to prepare for the wedding, running a lot of errands, and taking others’ advice. Kitty is angered that Countess Nordston thinks she could do better than Konstantin. He confesses to Kitty that he has been with other women – she takes his badly. She is not particularly upset by his profession of atheism as she believes he has a good soul.
Karenin returns to his hotel annoyed with Dolly and irritated by the discussion of the duel fought by Kvitsky. He reads a telegram reporting Stremov has been given the job he himself wanted. A telegram from Anna begs him to return home as she is dying. He thinks it might be a trick. He knows she is close to having the baby. He decides to go to Petersburg – Anna has had the baby the day before and is now ill. The doctor, midwife, and Vronsky are there. Anna is conscious but rambling. Karenin is broken hearted. Anna is ill for three days and Karenin tells Vronsky that he forgives her and no longer wishes for her death. He says he will keep Anna with him and he will let Vronsky know if she wishes to see him. Vronsky leaves.
After Vronsky leaves the Karenin residence he experiences strong emotions, including humility. Karenin, the betrayed husband, has been pitied, but now has the power and status of a loved husband who has behaved contritely and with compassion. Vronsky feels like the lesser of the two. He returns home in a seriously despondent mood and feels he is losing his grip on reality. He picks up a gun with thoughts of suicide. He shoots himself, but not fatally. His brother’s wife, Varya, comes to nurse him. 85 OK
Karenin has forgiven his wife and feels pity for Vronsky, hearing about his attempted suicide. He even shows interest in the baby girl, Vronsky’s child. He vows to give his son Seroyzha more attention. Anna recovers and Karenin’s feelings begin to adjust to reality. Princess Betsy comes to call which does not please him. He overhears Anna’s conversation with Princess Betsy. Anna is saying she does not want to say a final goodbye to Vronsky. Karenin goes in to talk to them and Anna tells him that Vronsky wants to say goodbye before he goes to Tashkend but she does not think it right. Karenin leaves it up to Anna whether she receives Vronsky or not.
Karenin goes back into Anna’s room to speak to her, using Russian, a language of familiarity and intimacy. He repeats that she can decide about Vronsky, which irritates her and tells him she has already decided. He tells her Princess Betsy’s interference was unwanted. Karenin tells her he has sent for the doctor for the baby who is not well, who won’t nurse. Anna wants to know why she can’t nurse the baby herself. Karenin broods about his shattered life as he leaves – he know Anna hates him, society is laughing at him, and he lost a job he wanted due to his wife’s infidelity.
Stepan comes to visit just as Princess Betsy is leaving. He flatters and flirts with Betsy. She tells him Karenin is “killing” Anna. Stepan goes to his sister Anna and finds her crying. Stepan’s mood immediately shifts to sympathy. Anna tells him she can’t stand her husband and even hates his forgiveness. Stepan tells her she is simply overwrought and things will improve as she gets better. Anna’s responses show her to be overwhelmed and without focus; she simply does not know what to do and death seems like the only way out. Stepan says divorce is the only answer and tells her he will speak to Karenin.
Stepan goes to talk to Karenin. For once in his life, he is intimidated. Karenin shows him a letter that he has started to Anna in which he says he will do what will bring her happiness. Stepan is so moved tears come to his eyes but he tells Karenin what he should do is take the steps needed to dissolve the marriage, not rely on Anna to make a decision. Karenin is still resistant to the idea of allowing the marriage dissolve on grounds of mutual adultery. He is worried about their son. He also believes it would ruin Anna. Karenin finally acquiesces to what Stepan is suggesting.
Vronsky had shot himself in the chest and his wound almost killed him. When he is strong enough he tells his sister-in-law, who is nursing him, that the wound was accidental. Vronsky now believes he can go on with life but is still troubled that he may never see Anna again. His wound heals and he must go to his new posting at Tashkend. Princess Betsy is sent to ask Anna to see him but she refuses. Later Betsy comes to tell him that she has heard from Stepan Oblonsky that Karenin has agreed to a divorce. Vronsky goes straight to Anna. They make plans to go away together. Vronsky declines his appointment in Tashkend and retires from the army. A month later they leave Petersburg. Karenin is left alone with his son.
Princess Shtcherbatsky has agreed to Kitty’s wedding being held before Lent – there are only five weeks left. She decides that only a small part of the trousseau can be made before the wedding. Konstantin is still on cloud nine and does not want to consider practical things. Stepan reminds him that he needs a church certificate showing he has made confession – Konstantin has not made confession in nine years. He attends church but feels that it is all wrong. He goes to make his confession and tells the priest he has doubts about religion. The priest does not take him seriously. After some questioning he blesses Konstantin who is relieved that he has not had to lie.
On his wedding day Konstantin dined with his brother Sergey and two bachelor friends. His best man is Tchirikov, a Moscow judge. The men tease him that he is about to lose his freedom. Konstantin tells them he is quite happy to do so. Suddenly he is filled with doubt that Kitty truly loves him…perhaps she still loves Vronsky. He rushes off to her home and asks her if she wants to cancel the wedding and does she love him. They declare their love for each other. Kitty’s mother sends him home telling him not to be so foolish. He leaves to prepare for the wedding.
The church is crowded for Kitty and Konstantin’s wedding. The church looks gorgeous and the guests are beautifully dressed. Everyone is impatient to see the bride and groom but they are late. Konstantin is still in his hotel room, without all the necessary clothing. Stepan is waiting with them – they have sent a servant out to purchase a new shirt. Konstantin, now completely flustered, dresses quickly and he and Stepan rush to the church.
Konstantin meets Kitty at the church door and they walk into the church, everyone staring at them. Some of those present whisper that Kitty doesn’t look as pretty as she usually does but Konstantin thinks she looks beautiful. The couple have a chance to greet some of the guests before the ceremony begins. Konstantin has to be coached on his part in the ceremony. Soon he calms down. Kitty is filled with joy to be marrying Konstantin. They fumble with the wedding rings but soon get it right. Soon they are officially married.
Some of the guests are gossiping as the wedding proceeds, discussing outfits and the fact that the wedding is being held at night, like shopkeepers. Konstantin’s half-brother and Dolly tease each other and Stepan makes a joke about divorce. Countess Nordston comments that Kitty is too good for Konstantin. Dolly is very happy for her younger sister but feels sadness over Anna’s divorce, which she has just heard about.
The next part of the wedding ceremony is the stepping on a pink silk rug – the first one to do so allegedly will become the head of the household. The congregation pray for the couple’s fruitfulness and that they will be happy with their children. The priest puts the wedding crowns on Kitty and Konstantin’s heads. The epistle is read and the priest leads them by the hand around the lectern. The couple kiss. After the wedding supper, they leave for the country.
Anna and Vronsky have been traveling in Europe for three months and have arrived at a small town in Italy. Their daughter Annie is with them. At the hotel Vronsky runs into a Russian army friend, Golenishtchev, whom he has not seen for years. They have different political views. Vronsky is actually happy to see him, not realizing how bored he really is. Vronsky tells him he is with Anna and Golenishtchev does not seem shocked by their relationship. When he meets Anna he likes her immediately. Vronsky is a little unsettled to hear Golenishtchev has become a political writer. They visit a museum and Anna mentions Vronsky’s interest in art.
Anna’s past in many ways seems like a dream – her illness, her marriage reconciliation, the divorce, leaving her son, and so on. A period of great happiness follows. She knows she made Karenin unhappy but feels there was no other way. She is even more in love with Vronsky. Vronsky himself is not as happy and somewhat bored. They must fill up their days with activities and he can no longer live a carefree bachelor life. He clutches at any diversion to keep him amused and decides to take up painting.
Vronsky and Anna are now living in the palazzo in the small Italian town. They get to know a few interesting people and Vronsky is adapting to his role as a retired army officer, patron of the arts, and artist in the making. One day he and Golenishtchev talk about a current Russian artist, Mihailov, who has a good reputation but no support from the Russian government. Vronsky thinks he might support this man and have him paint Anna’s portrait. She suggests he paint their daughter’s. Golenishtchev says Mihailov is a savage. They decide to go see him.
Mihailov is a struggling artist, married and a father, nasty to his wife who tries to manage his affairs, and absorbed in his work which is both frustrating and rewarding. When Vronsky, Anna, and Golenishtchev arrive, he is thrilled, as they represent what he needs – the patronage of the wealthy. He has confidence in his own talent. The Russian visitors are not impressed by the artist’s appearance – he is unremarkable. Mihailov’s first impression of Anna is a memorable one.
Mihailov scrutinizes his visitors, as he does everyone, and knows he has met Golenishtchev before but remembers nothing about him. He judges the three as shallow dilettantes when it comes to art. However, he feels a liking for Vronsky and Anna. He shows them his acclaimed picture that has a religious theme. Golenishtchev compliments the picture and Mihailov is thrilled, as he agrees with his observation. Anna’s comment is approved of but Mihailov does not like Vronsky’s assessment.
Golenishtchev is speaking learnedly and cleverly to Mihailov and Anna and Vronsky are getting a little restless. They begin exclaiming over another picture of two boys fishing. Vronsky asks if it is for sale and Mihailov grumpily assents that the pictures are displayed to be sold. The visitors leave and the artist makes slight adjustments to his religious painting. Golenishtchev, Vronsky and Anna talk animatedly about Mihailov on their way home, saying how talented he is. They particularly like the picture of the fishing boys.
Vronsky purchases the painting of the boys finishing and Mihailov agrees to paint Anna’s portrait. The portrait is beautiful. Although he had unsuccessfully tried to paint her himself, Vronsky says it is all about Mihailov’s technique, subtly disparaging the artist’s talent. While at the palazzo Mihailov is sullen and almost rude. The wealthy Russians do not like him much. Mihailov finds Vronsky’s attempts at painting offensive. Vronsky finishes one painting and did not attempt to do any more. Anna and Vronsky soon begin to find the palazzo depressing and dull. They plan to return to Russia.
It is three months after Konstantin and Kitty’s wedding. Konstantin is happy but discovers marriage is not all smooth-sailing. He is an idealist – he did not think his marriage would be like all others. He had no idea that Kitty would have interests other than him and take such interest in running the household. He was also surprised at their having quarrels and is overwhelmed by the emotions she shows when angry with him. They are able to reconcile but still have disagreements. It is a period of adjustment.
Konstantin is working on his book and his happy to have Kitty doing needlework nearby as he writes. His book is about the causes of failures in agriculture in Russia, the unequal distribution of wealth, and the failure of reform. Kitty goes for tea and Konstantin begins to ponder that he is not getting enough done – he wants Kitty to be more occupied but that he should still be the center of her universe. He would like Kitty to have more serious interests. He blames her lack of a serious education. He does not understand that Kitty’s obsession with her “nest” is a prelude to her career as wife and mother.
Konstantin’s housekeeper Agafea is very fond of Kitty; at first she was unhappy about having a new mistress. When Konstantin joins them for tea Kitty gives him a letter from his brother’s common-law wife, Marya Nikolaevna. The letter says his brother Nikolai is dying. Kitty wants to go with him to see Nikolai but Konstantin does not believe her sincerity – he thinks she just wants to get away and go on a trip. He tells her she would be in the way and that she should not meet Marya. Kitty tells she him that as his wife, she should be with him at such a time. They quarrel, she cries, and then it is decided she will accompany him.
Nikolai is staying at a run-down hotel in a provincial town. It is dirty and depressing. The hotel has only one room left and Konstantin is feeling stressed about having to look after Kitty when he just wants to see his brother. He meets Marya out in the hall and she does not want to run into Kitty. Kitty looks out into the hall and both Konstantin and Marya are embarrassed. Konstantin goes to see Nikolai, who is obviously dying. They talk and Nikolai expresses his gladness that Kitty is with Konstantin. Konstantin goes to fetch her and she takes Nikolai’s hand and speaks soothingly to him. She tells Konstantin they must get him a better room.
Konstantin is overwhelmed by his brother’s dying and the situation repels him. Kitty, on the other hand, feels compassion for Nikolai and immediately makes plans to make him more comfortable. With her maid and Marya she begins to clean the room and get the staff to do as she asks. She sends for a new doctor. The state of the room improves and so do Nikolai’s spirits. The doctor comes and prescribes food and medicine. Nikolai is enthralled with Kitty. Kitty asks Konstantin to turn his brother over for the night as she and Marya are not strong enough. Nikolai holds on to Konstantin’s hand and then kisses it. Konstantin leaves the room crying.
Konstantin realizes that the intellectualization of death by the greatest thinkers is nothing compared to what women like Kitty and Agafea can do in the face of it. He has no idea of what to do for his dying brother. Back in their room Kitty does all that is needed to prepare it for their stay, to make it like home. They talk about the fact that Kitty has convinced Nikolai to receive the last rites. Kitty observes all religious conventions and does not take Konstantin’s atheism seriously. Konstantin tells her he is glad she came. He recalls how charming Nikolai was as a youth.
The next day Nikolai receives the last rites which he takes very seriously. Konstantin does not – he knows Nikolai has not suddenly reverted to religion. After this Nikolai seems better and even eats a little. Soon Nikolai is worse. Konstantin and Kitty eventually go back to their room. Marya comes to tell them he is dying. Nikolai lies motionless for a long time but still breathing. Konstantin tells Kitty to leave and sits with his brother for hours. Nikolai is wearing everyone out and they soon begin to wish for his inevitable death. He lingers on – Kitty and Konstantin have now been there for ten days. That night Nikolai dies. Konstantin learns that Kitty is pregnant.
Alexey Karenin’s life is drastically changed by his divorce. Immediately after her departure he tries to go on with his life as usual. Karenin had been an orphan who became a star pupil with much political ambition. The brother he was closest to had died in early adulthood. Anna’s aunt had brought them together, he fell in love, and she agreed to marry him. Karenin is close to no one now that Anna was gone. He is fond of his chief secretary, Sludin, but their relationship is more professional than personal. His doctor is too busy to be of much help. Karenin does not consider women worthy of his time.
Countess Lidia Ivanovna goes to see Karenin to counsel him. At first he is resistant but relents, almost crying and saying he is crushed. Lidia urges him to draw on God for support. Karenin insists it is simply his pride which is wounded and the day-to-day running of the household and caring for his son is sapping his energy. Lidia offers to help him. She prays for him. She goes to Seryozha and tells him his mother is dead. She attempts to run the household although she is incompetent. Karenin’s valet steps in and rights her wrongs. Lidia does give Karenin the moral support he desperately needs and turns him back to his religion, which he has neglected.
When young Lidia Ivanovna had been in love with and married to a ne’er-do-well for a short two months. He had abandoned her and they divorced. Lidia now loves many people in different ways. She believes she is truly in love with Karenin. She has just learned Vronsky and Anna are in Petersburg. Lidia receives a note from Anna. She reads that Anna wishes to see her son and asks for arrangements to be made. Lidia does not send an answer and writes a note to Karenin asking him to meet her at a reception, where Alexey is being honored, later.
Karenin is at the reception (also called a levee) for the Imperial family and is being gossiped about by the other attendees. They talk about Countess Lidia and about Anna being back in Petersburg. Unlike the others in his circle, Karenin does not realize his career has reached a standstill due to his marital situation. Under Lidia’s influence he has become more religious and finds comfort in the scriptures. He also finds comfort in Lidia’s love for him. At the reception they talk about his son’s education and then Lidia tells him that Anna is in Petersburg.
Back home, Alexey goes to Lidia’s house to wait for her. They talk over tea and Lidia gives him the letter she received from Anna. He reads it and says he does not think he can refuse Anna the right to see her son. Lidia protests and he says he has forgiven Anna. Lidia prays and then advises him to not give in to Anna. He agrees and she writes a note to Anna telling her Alexey has refused her request. When Alexey goes home he is full of doubts about his decision.
It is the day before Seryozha’s birthday. He asks the hall porter if anything has been left for him and he is told that Countess Lidia has left a gift. The boy is excited for his birthday and is restless. He excited that is father has been presented with the “Alexander Nevsky” by the Tsar, a medal for surface to his country. Seryozha dreams that he too will one day receive accolades. When his grammar teacher arrives the boy disappoints him by not knowing his work.
Seryozha waits for his father to come for his Bible lesson. He daydreams about his mother whom he knows is alive for despite what Countess Lidia told him, he has found out the truth from his nurse. His father arrives; Seroyzha looks for signs of joy from receiving the Alexander Nevsky. Alexey tells the boy the reward was in doing the work, not getting the star. Seryozha’s mood plummets. They begin the Bible lesson but the boy has trouble concentrating. Alexey punishes him by not allowing him to see his friend Nadinka, Lidia’s niece. When he goes to bed Seroyzha prays that he will see his mother for his birthday.
In Petersburg, Anna and Vronsky stay in separate suites in an excellent hotel. Vronsky goes to visit his brother and sees his mother too as she is in town. They ask him about his trip abroad but do not mention Anna. His brother visits the next morning and asks Vronsky about Anna – the Count says he wants to marry her. Vronsky knows their world is now closed to Anna although still open to him. He sees his cousin Princess Betsy who soon visits Anna but only for a few minutes. His mother will not see Anna. He hopes his sister-in-law, Varya, will, but she refuses, saying his would damage her daughters’ chances. Vronsky tells her their friendship is over and leaves. Their stay in Petersburg is very painful.
Anna is very eager to see her son now that she is back in Petersburg. She finds there are obstacles to doing this. When she writes to Lidia and receives no answer she is humiliated and does not even tell Vronsky. He would not understand her need to see Seroyzha. When she does receive Lidia’s note turning down her request she is angry. She decides to go to the house to next day, to see her son on his birthday. A servant admits her and she sees her son, who is just waking up. She cries for joy.
The Karenin house is upside down with excitement with the news that Anna is back. The servants realize they have to keep Anna’s visit a secret from Karenin. She and Seroyzha both know she must leave before he comes to the nursery but the boy begs her not to leave yet. Anna tells him she must and as she goes to leave Karenin comes in. She feels hatred and jealousy. Before she goes she leaves Seroyzha his gifts.
Seeing Seroyzha has affected Anna deeply. She cuddles her baby daughter but in her heart knows that her feelings for Seroyzha are deeper and their relationship more real. She wonders where Vronsky is and why he has left her alone in her misery. Anna wonders if Vronsky does not love her anymore. A servant tells her Vronsky is coming with a guest, Prince Yashvin, whom she has met before. She invites him for dinner. She asks Vronsky when they will be leaving Petersburg, and he replies “soon, soon”.
Vronsky later returns home to find Anna out and no word left as to where she is. He is worried about her, her mood seems erratic. She finally returns with her old unmarried Aunt, Princess Oblonsky. Anna seems wound up. She asks another guest, Tushkevitch, to stay for dinner, and then suggests they get a box at the theatre. Vronsky does not think she should go out in public and tells her so, they she might be embarrassed. Anna purposefully misunderstands his comments and pretends he thinks her aunt or Tushkevitch would cause them embarrassment.
Vronsky is, for the first time, angry with Anna. He feels her theatre clothes are inappropriate. He doesn’t understand why she cannot see this for herself. Vronsky leaves for the theatre by himself; Anna has gone ahead. At the theatre she is in a box with Yashvin. The people in the box next to Anna leave, obviously objecting to her presence. Vronsky goes to his brother’s box where his mother and sister-in-law are. They tell him Anna has caused a scene with the people next to her. He goes to Anna’s box but she soon leaves and he does as well. They argue, express their love, and the next day leave Petersburg.
Dolly Oblansky spends the summer with her children at her sister Kitty Levin’s. Stepan spends most of his time in Moscow. Kitty’s mother comes too, as does Varenka, Kitty’s friend from Soden. Konstantin’s brother Sergey comes to stay sometimes as well. Overall Konstantin feels very overwhelmed with all these visitors but is solicitous of his pregnant wife. There seems to be a romance blooming between Varenka and Sergey. The group troop off to pick mushrooms.
Later all the ladies assemble on the Levin terrace. They are knitting baby clothes and overseeing Agafea’s making of jam while they discuss giving gifts to the servants. They talk about Varenka and Sergey’s romance and that it is time for Sergey to propose. The women remember their own proposals. They discuss Vronsky and this leads to Anna. Konstantin comes along and they have to change the subject. They know that even now Konstantin can be jealous of Vronsky.
Kitty and Konstantin go off to join the others looking for mushrooms. They are glad to have a few moments together. They talk about Sergey and Varenka. Konstantin talks about the girl Sergey was in love with many years before. Konstantin says he envies Sergey his happiness and tells Kitty he is happy but not entirely content with himself, he feels he is flawed. They play a game with a flower, pulling petals to see if Sergey will propose or not.
Varenka is anticipating Sergey’s proposal. He is very attracted to her – he has not felt this way since his youthful love affair. He goes off on his own to pick mushrooms and he thinks about whether he should propose or not. Varenka has all the qualities he seeks in a wife – she is charming, youthful but not too young, she is affectionate, and she lives by religious principles. He is not unhappy that she is lacking a large family. The only thing that worries him is his age but he feels he is a youthful forty. As he sees Varenka on the edge of the wood he realizes how much he cares.
In his head, Sergey proposes to Varenka by telling her she is the woman he has been waiting for all his life. He rejoins Varenka; she is surrounded by the children. He uses the subject of mushrooms to get her away from them. Varenka is torn – she knows Sergey would be a good husband for her but she is not sure if she is in love with him. They continue to speak of mushrooms and the moment for a proposal seems to have passed. They leave the woods and Kitty sees them – she knows that no proposal has been made.
The adults gather on the terrace and talk about various things. The Princess Shtcherbatskaya is convinced her husband, the Prince, won’t visit although he had promised. She will have to go home, where she feels bored and useless. Konstantin goes to give Dolly’s son Grisha his Latin lesson. Varenka goes to supervise Agafea preparing supper. Sergey asks if Stepan is coming and how different he and Konstantin are. Suddenly Stepan arrives, bringing a cousin, Vassenka Veslovsky. Konstantin is unhappy the old prince has not come and dislikes the new arrivals and goes off to the counting-house.
Konstantin comes back to the house but he is still in a bad mood. Stepan and Veslovsky want to go shooting the next morning. Stepan tells Dolly that Veslovsky has been to see Anna, who is only fifty miles away. Veslovsky sits next to Kitty, which does not please Konstantin. They talk about Anna’s planned move to Moscow and Dolly says she will visit her. Kitty is embarrassed when Veslovsky asks her if she will go. Konstantin grows jealous of Veslovsky, although he later denies this to Kitty. She is angry with his jealousy. Konstantin realizes he has been a fool.
Stepan and Veslovsky prepare to go shooting the next morning. Konstantin is late because he is talking to Kitty, again asking her for forgiveness over his jealousy. He joins the other men but is in an agitated state. He has to deal with the carpenter over the building of a staircase. The men leave, looking forward to their day of shooting and hoping not to disgrace themselves. Konstantin decides he likes Veslovsky after all, that he is just a harmless fellow.
The men stop to shoot at a couple of places before their intended destination. Konstantin stays in the carriage while the other two go into the marsh. An accident is narrowly avoided when Konstantin bumps against a cocked gun and it goes off. At the second marsh Stepan and Veslovsky again go into shoot and Konstantin then goes in by himself. Soon he realizes Veslovsky has driven the carriage into the marsh and it is stuck. He has to work by himself to free it. The men drive on to their intended destination, the Gvozdyov marsh.
The men reach the Gvozdyov marsh. By now neither Konstantin nor Stepan is very happy at having Veslovsky along. Three begin to hunt Konstantin tells Veslovsky to stay beside him; he is nervous about Veslovsky’s carelessness. Konstantin does not have a successful start and is upset; Veslovsky is unsuccessful but does not care. Later in the day they run into a group of peasants and Konstantin is tempted to take them up on their offer of vodka. Veslovsky regards them as an almost alien species. His poor day continues and then he meets Stepan who has killed fourteen birds to Konstantin’s five.
Veslovsky is already at a peasant’s hut that Konstantin regularly stops at. He tells them the peasants have fed him bread and vodka. The hut is filthy and smells of the marsh but the men are happy. They talk about Malthus, a man who has made a fortune in the railways. Konstantin does not believe great fortunes should be made through white-collar work. Veslovsky goes off for a walk and to search out the singing maids they can hear. Stepan urges Konstantin go come too – that he needs to be more of a man, and not tied to his wife. Konstantin stays in the hut. He has trouble getting to sleep, troubled by what Stepan has said.
Konstantin is ready to go out shooting at dawn but his companions are deep in sleep. Even the animals are slow to wake. Konstantin and his dog Laska head back into the marsh. Konstantin shoots a grouse and is elated. It is now fully dawn. Konstantin shoots more birds – he has a young peasant boy as an audience. The chapter has much description of the marsh and of dawn.
By mid-morning Konstantin has shot nineteen birds and enjoys Stepan’s envy. A note from Kitty has arrived. She tells him a midwife has been to check on her and everything is fine. But he is unhappy to find out that one of the horses is exhausted and that all the provisions have been eaten up, leaving nothing for him. They do some more shooting and drive home in the evening. Veslovsky regales them with stories of his exploits from the night before. Konstantin realizes that he has enjoyed this excursion.
The next morning Konstantin takes Veslovsky to see his horses. He is still not happy about the Veslovsky’s attentions to Anna. His mother-in-law talks to him about moving Kitty to Moscow to have the baby which they claim will be within days. He is torn between elation of having a child and confusion about the mystery of it all. Kitty does not know how to stop Veslovsky’s attentions. Konstantin leaves in a black mood to deal with a mechanic. Kitty follows him and asks him what she is supposed to do about Veslovsky. They settle their differences and return home happy.
Konstantin goes to Dolly to ask her advice. He tells her he and Kitty have quarrelled for the second time since Stepan’s arrival. Dolly knows he really means since Veslovsky arrived. She agrees that Veslovsky seems to be taken with Kitty but when Konstantin says he will send him away, she is horrified. Konstantin goes to find Veslovsky and tells him he must go. Stepan comes and asks Konstantin why he is doing this, that he is jealous and being ridiculous. Veslovsky leaves and in time everyone calms down except the Princess, who disapproves of Konstantin’s action.
Dolly goes to see Anna despite Konstantin and Kitty’s disapproval. Konstantin insists she take his horses for the trip. On her way there, Dolly has time to think, a rare occurrence in her life. She worries about her children particularly her son Grisha’s education. She dreads another pregnancy, and possibly losing another child. Thinking about the whole business makes her feel exhausted. A woman’s lot is difficult. She begins to think of men other than her husband and knows some are attracted to her; Anna feels some sympathy for Anna and her plight.
Dolly arrives at Vozdvizhenskoe just as Vronsky, Anna, Veslovsky and other guests are returning from an outing in horseback. Anna on horseback at first seems not proper to Dolly. Anna is very happy to see her sister-in-law and hugs and kisses her. She is recognizes another guest, Princess Barbara (Varvara), who is her husband’s aunt. She has little respect for her. Dolly think Anna looks very happy, like a woman in love. Anna gets into Dolly’s carriage with her and Dolly is embarrassed because it is dirty and plainer than what Anna is used to.
Anna, while not commenting, does not think Dolly looks as well as she used to. They ride in the carriage and Anna asks Dolly what she thinks about her status now but Dolly is reluctant to. Anna implies that if Dolly loved her she would not judge her but love her regardless. She shows her the land and buildings Vronsky is developing, including a hospital. They soon come upon the main house, which belonged to his grandfather. In the courtyard they are met by Vronsky and Veslovsky. Anna and Dolly go into the house and talk about various things.
Vronsky’s house is elegant and sumptuous, not decorated in a typical Russian manner. Everything is new and fashionable, including the maid. Dolly is received when Anna sends an old familiar maid to her, Annushka. Annushka wants to gossip about Anna but Dolly discourages her. Anna comes in and Dolly asks her about her daughter Annie. Dolly is told that Annie’s last name is Karenin. They go to see the baby, who has at least three servants just for her. She is now able to crawl. It is apparent to Dolly that Anna does not visit the nursery often. Anna proceeds to tell Dolly about the other visitors there.
Dolly goes out to sit on the terrace with Princess Varvara. Varvara declares that she has come to help Anna adjust to her new life. The men come in and they talk about how they pass the time at Vozdvizhenskoe – playing lawn tennis, walking in the garden, and rowing. They go for a stroll. Dolly understands Anna’s life-choices but does not feel entirely comfortable. She thinks Varvara is there only to take advantage of the luxuries. They look over the progress of the new building. Vronsky shows them all the up-to-date items in the hospital. Dolly is very impressed with his enthusiasm.
Vronsky walks Dolly back to the house. She senses he wants to talk to her. He tells her she is the only one who really cares about Anna and how sad he feels about the position he has put his lover in. Dolly tells Vronsky that Anna is happy and he agrees but is worried about the future. He does not like is daughter being legally a Karenin, as will be any other children they may have. Vronsky tells her he loves his life now and what he is doing with his property. He wants Dolly to urge Anna to get the divorce settled.
It is almost time for dinner and still Anna and Dolly have not had a heart-to-heart talk. The meal is served and it is very elegant and perfectly presented. Dolly understands that Vronsky himself is behind the perfect order of his household. Anna’s role is to make sure the conversation flows. They talk about rowing and about the new reaping-machine. Veslovsky is flirtatious with Anna but Vronsky does not seem to mind. Vronsky announces he is pleased to have been appointed a Justice of the Peace and would be happy to sit on the local council. Later they play croquet and Veslovsky continues charming Anna. In bed that night Dolly decides to go home the next day.
Dolly is ready to go bed when Anna comes to visit her, wanting to talk. At first she cannot find the words to say. Instead, she asks about Kitty, if she is angry with Anna. Dolly denies this and then Anna asks her what she thinks of her life, although she does not let Dolly answer, but offers her own explanations. Anna asks Dolly what Vronsky was talking to her about and Dolly says it was about Anna getting a divorce, to legitimize their daughter. Anna admits she cannot have more children. Dolly thinks that Vronsky will find other women, just as her own husband has.
Dolly presses Anna to get a divorce but she doesn’t want to discuss it. Dolly says she does not like the way Veslovsky speaks to Anna but she says he simply amuses her. Anna then admits the thought of marrying Vronsky is tearing her apart and she needs morphine to sleep. She says Karenin won’t give her a divorce – he is being influenced by Lidia Ivanovna. Anna is afraid if she divorces Karenin she will lose Seryozha forever. Anna leaves and Dolly is even more determined to return home and she leaves the next morning. The coachman complains about Vronsky, saying he is cheap.
Vronsky and Anna continue as they are and no steps are taken for a divorce. They live a quiet life with their child – Anna reads a lot and Vronsky continues with his hospital project with Anna’s input. He is enjoying the role of a wealthy Russian landowner. In the fall he goes to observe the elections for Kashinsky province, in which his estate is located. He is nervous about telling Anna he is going away but she does not seem to mind. He feels she is hiding something but does not press her on the subject.
Konstantin and Kitty move to Moscow in September to await the birth. He has time on his hands and when his half-brother Sergey plans to go to the elections in Kashinsky Konstantin decides to go as well – he also has some business to do in that province. He has problems getting his business done due to the elections. Bureaucracy seems to overwhelm everyone. Konstantin has learned patience since his marriage and does not let it all get to him. He goes to the election speeches and to the cathedral. The election process is closely tied to nepotism of the old landed families.
The nobles meet for the election of the marshal in Kashinsky. There is a sharp divide between the older nobleman and the younger ones, but only in their numbers, not in a political sense. The membership of the old and new parties is mixed. Stepan comes forward and says he is placing is support behind Konstantin’s brother, Sergey, to replace the current marshal, Sviazhsky, Konstantin’s neighbor. There is some political chicanery going on, and Konstantin is not sure what is really happening.
Many of the nobles hate Sergey and dispute his winning the vote. They want another vote cast. The nobles are extremely agitated and Konstantin does not like the atmosphere. He leaves the room and goes to the refreshment-bar. He is watching the waiters when a government official who he knows tells him that Sergey is looking for him for an important vote. Konstantin is unsure how to vote and fumbles his white ball.
The noblemen prepare to vote and there is a festive and almost pre-battle atmosphere. Konstantin avoids his group of friends because Vronsky is with them. He is not interested in or excited by the process. Some of the men are getting drunk. An acquaintance speaks to Konstantin who admits he does not understand these provincial elections. The acquaintance says there is nothing to understand, it is all decaying and meaningless and runs on inertia. They discuss how little they make off their land despite all the work they do.
Konstantin’s old friend and neighbor Sviazhsky comes over and takes him back to his group of friends where Konstantin has no choice but to speak to Vronsky. Konstantin snubs his greeting and turns to speak to his brother Sergey. The men discuss if any of them should stand for the council, Sviazhsky refusing to, almost in a panic. Vronsky asks Konstantin why he is not a justice of the peace. Konstantin says that it is a foolish institution. He is convinced the whole political system is a sham.
Vronsky is celebrating the election results. He has come to the elections because he is bored with life in the country and he wants to show Sviazhsky his support. Sviazhsky has helped him in the past. He finds himself caught up in the excitement of the elections, much to his surprise. Vronsky has supported the winner and he thinks that if he can marry Anna he might stand for election himself in time. The nobles are having a sumptuous feast. He receives a rather hostile telegram from Anna asking him to return home (he had stayed a day longer than he had planned) because Annie is ill.
Anna felt Vronsky’s coldness when he left for the elections. Part of his reason for going was to show his independence. During the five days he is gone Anna keeps busy during the day and relies on morphine at night to keep calm. Annie takes ill, but not seriously. She uses Annie’s illness as a pretext to send for Vronsky. Varvara is there but is no help to her. Vronsky arrives home and she tells him Annie is better. Vronsky is not convinced about the seriousness of Annie’s illness. They discuss their relationship and Anna says it is obvious she must get a divorce. She writes to Karenin and she and Vronsky go to Moscow in November.
Konstantin and Kitty have been in Moscow for three months and the baby has not yet been born. Everyone is becoming uneasy except for Kitty. Konstantin is spending a lot of time in the country. She knows he is happier there and is a different person in the city, as he hates society. Kitty runs into Vronsky when she visits her godmother. At first she is embarrassed but then is able to handle the situation. He father is silently supportive of her and she feels at ease. When she tells Konstantin she has seen Vronsky, they handle it well.
Konstantin is in Moscow and going out to see some friends and he tells Kitty he will be home before dinner. Konstantin shows he is a little worried about money when she asks him for some. They talk about her coming confinement and she says she is not worried. Konstantin later thinks that he is getting used to the expense of living in the city.
While in Moscow Konstantin sees his old friend Professor Katavasov – the two men get along well and enjoy each other’s company. Katavasov thinks Konstantin’s book is coming along well and tells a celebrated intellectual, Metrov about his writing. He introduces him to the man and they briefly discuss the war and Russian politics. They talk about Konstantin’s book on labour and the Russian peasant. Konstantin has a more personal view of the peasant than Metrov does. The men go to a lecture together.
Konstantin, while spending the winter in Moscow, had gotten to know Kitty’s brother-in-law, Lvov, quite well. Lvov is married to Kitty’s sister Natalia and had spent most of his career abroad in the diplomatic service. They are now in Moscow; he is working at the court. Konstantin goes to see Lvov. The men speak in French and talk about the latest political situation. Lvov discusses the education of his sons (Natalia’s stepsons), which he takes very seriously. Konstantin thinks highly of the boys. Natalia comes into the room and they decide Konstantin will go to a concert with her.
Konstantin pays serious attention at the concert; he does not regard it as a light social occasion as so many people do. He is not sure what to make of the music which is a fantasia, King Lear. During the intermission he speaks to a musical connoisseur whom he knows, Pestsov. The men discuss the music and expand to discussing music of the Wagner school and are soon talking about art in general. During the second set of music, a quartet of Bach, Pestsov talks through the performance, and this annoys Konstantin. Later he realizes he is supposed to visit Countess Bol.
Konstantin visits the Countess Bol who is at home with her two daughters and a Moscow colonel. They have been at the funeral of Madame Apraskin and could not attend the concert. The talk turns to opera and culture. Konstantin finds this all very tedious – he does not understand society’s obsession with meaningless small talk. He puts in just enough time to be socially correct and then leaves. He goes to the public meeting to pick up Natalia. He sees Sviazhsky there who invites him to a meeting of the Society of Agriculture. Mental fatigue causes Konstantin to make a faux pas commenting on a current trial. He goes home to Kitty, who is well, and then goes to the club.
Konstantin goes to the club which he has not been to since his university days. It is still very impressive and a center of aristocratic propriety. The porter, who Konstantin does not know, seems to know all about him and his friends and relations. Many of them are already there, including his father-in-law, Vronsky, and his half-brother Sergey. Stepan Oblansky soon arrives and everyone enjoys the food and drink and small talk. Later on Vronsky joins them and Konstantin is civil, commenting on the Count’s racehorse. They chat like old friends, fueled by alcohol and good food.
Konstantin is enjoying his visit to the club, despite himself. He meets his father-in-law who warns him that the members of the club eventually become “shlupiks” – useless old men. They tour the club, visiting different rooms where men are gambling, playing billiards, talking, and reading. The prince goes off to play cards. Konstantin comes upon Stepan who is with Vronsky. Stepan tells Konstantin Vronsky is his greatest friend and he wants them to be friends too. Champagne is ordered to celebrate but the two men have little to say to each other. Later the men decide to take Konstantin to meet Anna.
Stepan’s carriage takes the men to Vronsky’s. Konstantin soon regrets that he agreed to meet Anna. Stepan says how glad he is that his wife has been to see his sister, as well as Lvov. He tells Konstantin that she is trying to get a divorce but it dragging on due to issues over her son. Stepan complains that Anna is isolated due to society’s censure and that she is not overly occupied with her daughter but is spending time writing a children’s book and has taken in an English family whose father is a drunk. Konstantin is admiring Anna’s portrait and then turns to meet the woman herself.
Anna is charming upon meeting Konstantin, saying how glad she is to meet him. Konstantin feels at ease with her immediately. The men discuss Anna’s portrait, saying how fine it is. They discuss the artist Vashtchenkov and his recent works. Anna talks about Dolly’s recent visit and the conversation flows back and forth easily, although much of the conversation is not personal, but about art. The more he converses with Anna, the more impressed he is with her. He feels she hides nothing from the world. When they leave Anna begs him to ask Kitty to forgive her.
Konstantin has been won over by Anna’s beauty and charm and yet knows she is unhappy. Thinking of Anna, Konstantin goes home where he has to face some business issues. He feels guilty about frittering away time when he should be dealing with his sister’s affairs. He goes upstairs to his wife and tells her about Vronsky and then he has met Anna. Konstantin is not entirely comfortable with Kitty’s reaction; she seems to be holding something in. Within minutes she begins to cry, saying he is in love with Anna. They talk for hours and Konstantin tells her he will avoid both the club and Anna.
After Anna’s guests leave she thinks about how she tried to make Konstantin fall in love with her. She finds him attractive but gives him little thought once he has left. Anna’s real concern is why she and Vronsky seem to be drawing apart – Konstantin’s attention is just a passing amusement. When Vronsky comes in, she tries to behave in a normal way but soon is criticizing his staying out that night and breaks down in tears. He tries to comfort Anna but later shows by his cold manner that he is not happy with her. Anna feels an “evil spirit of strife” between them.
Konstantin falls asleep easily and when Kitty’s movements wake him he falls back asleep, unaware that she is in early labor. At seven she tells him, adding that she is not afraid. Konstantin feels guilty for his actions of the day before and suffers with her as she has labor pains. They send for the midwife and Konstantin sends for the doctor. He tells her he is going to Dolly’s, heads out on foot and meets the midwife arriving. She tells him that there is no hurry yet but to get some opium at the chemist’s.
Konstantin arrives at the doctor’s and finds he is not up yet, so he goes to the chemist’s and gets the opium. He returns to find the doctor still asleep, and bribes the assistant to let him up to see the doctor. He implores that he hurry. The doctor is unconcerned but promises he will leave soon and Konstantin returns home. Kitty’s labor is progressing normally but he is distressed. After five hours he feels he is going crazy. He loses all sense of time and what is going on around him and turns to prayer.
Kitty has been in labor all day. Late at night Konstantin an unearthly shriek which the doctor seems to approve of. Konstantin pushes his way into the bedroom to see Kitty. His wife begs him to stay, all the while telling him she is not afraid. Within minutes she is screaming at him to leave, which he does, although Dolly calls after him, telling him it is alright. Kitty continues screaming and when the doctor tells him it is the end, he assumes she is dying. But before long the baby is born, a healthy son, and all is well.
Konstantin is still in a daze after the birth of his son Dmitri. He leaves the men and goes to visit Kitty who is making plans for the christening with her mother. Konstantin is overcome with emotion upon seeing Kitty. The midwife brings the baby to Kitty so she can show him off to Konstantin. At first he finds the baby somewhat repulsive but begins to slowly feel some compassion for the newborn infant and even pride and joy when the baby suddenly sneezes.
Stepan is broke. He is convinced it is because his salary is not large enough. He has been looking around for a new opportunity within the civil service and had found one that pays well. He has to go to Petersburg to see about the job and also to continue working on securing Anna’s divorce. He begs his wife for money just to get to Petersburg where he sees Karenin whom he asks to help him get the job. When Karenin finds out what the salary will be he complains of the high pay that some government workers are receiving. Karenin says he thinks it is in the hands of Volgarinov, whom Stepan had seen that morning. Stepan resents that a Jew, Volgarinov, had kept him waiting and then refused to consider him for the job.
Stepan begins to talk to Karenin about Anna. Karenin looks weary and asks Stepan what he wants. Stepan appeals to his pity to settle the divorce for once and for all. Karenin still insists that the terms of the divorce mean his son stays with him. Stepan continues to appeal to his better nature but with little success. Karenin maintains that divorce is not the Christian thing to do, even though the church allows it. He almost loses his temper with Stepan but then asks to think it over for a couple of days.
While at Karenin’s Stepan meets with Seroyzha, Anna’s son. He has not seen the boy for a while and realizes he is no longer a child. Seroyzha seems a little subdued upon seeing his uncle. The boy has not seen his mother for a year. He does not like being reminded of her, which Stepan does by his mere presence. Stepan later talks to the boy alone, and Seroyzha is more relaxed without his father there. Stepan asks him if he remembers Anna, and the boy says he does not. Later Seroyzha’s tutor finds him alone, in a depressed mood.
Stepan likes to get out of Moscow, away from the petty details of his life. He finds the people and atmosphere of Petersburg relaxed and open and feels years younger there. Stepan mentions to a friend that he wants a certain job because he is in debt. The friend laughs at the small size of Stepan’s debt. Stepan realizes that many of his friends live way beyond their means. When he visits Princess Betsy he flirts dangerously with her and is saved by the arrival of another princess. They talk about Anna and how Karenin has taken up with Lidia Ivanovna. Stepan says he has received an invitation to see Lidia. The princesses tell him that Lidia and Karenin are consulting a clairvoyant, Jules Landau, about Anna.
Later that evening Stepan goes to Countess Lidia’s. The porter tells him Count Bezzubov, aka Jules Landau, is also there. He goes upstairs and is received by Lidia and Karenin, and meets Landau. Karenin and Lidia tell him about Landau, saying he has a heard a voice telling him to go to Paris. Stepan is skeptical. Lidia wants him to be on the same spiritual plane as Karenin. Lidia tells him there is only one “holy truth”. She and Karenin discuss religion and Lidia reads an essay on Christianity while Stepan listens.
While listening to Lidia and Karenin discuss religion Stepan’s head begins to spin either from their talk or the cognac. His thoughts are a jumble of confusion and eventually he falls asleep. He comes to when he hears Lidia remark that Landau is asleep. He sees Karenin taking Landau’s hand. By this point Stepan is so upset he leaves without asking Lidia’s support for the job he wants. He heads for the theatre and then home to the senior Oblanskys, where he is staying. There is a note from Princess Betsy saying she wants to see him the next day. He goes to bed feeling low.
Anna and Vronsky continue to stay in Moscow; although they both dislike the city intensely they cannot make a decision as a couple to leave. Anna is miserable because she believes Vronsky loves her less than before. It is dusk and she is waiting for him to return from a bachelor dinner. She thinks of the quarrel of the day before which began when Vronsky derided education for females. He also thinks she pays too much attention to her English foster daughter and not enough to their own child. She also thinks he may have another woman. Anna decides they must go away to the country the next day.
When Vronsky returns home at ten that night he finds Anna in a good mood. They talk about going to the country, and he tells her about his evening out. Vronsky mentions that they cannot leave until Monday because he has to visit his mother on Sunday. Anna is jealous because Princess Sorokin is staying with Countess Vronsky and she imagines Vronsky is interested in her. She becomes upset and challenges his love for her. He tells her she is being illogical. Anna decides that she must end the relationship. Later Vronsky comes and tells her they can go on Sunday. She tells him he must be rid of her, that she is ruining his life. They make up and embrace.
Anna feels good about her reconciliation with Vronsky and gets ready to go to the country. He prepares to visit his mother and while eating his morning meal receives a telegram from Stepan, saying there is no divorce yet and hope is fading. Vronsky had attempted to hide the telegram from Anna, which arouses her old distrust of him. They get into another verbal wrangle over whether Vronsky loves her or not. She also speaks disparagingly of his mother. Vronsky’s friend Yashvin visits them and knows a quarrel is taking place. Anna continues to be cold to Vronsky and when he returns at night refuses to see him.
Anna is convinced Vronsky hates her and has another woman. They spend a day talking about ending their relationship – Vronsky suggests she go back to her husband. He had not visited her the night before; she had told him not to but thought if he truly loved her, he would have. She views death as a way of punishing him and reviving his love for her. The next morning Vronsky receives money and deeds from his mother, delivered by Madame Sorokin and her daughter. This upsets Anna again and now says she won’t be going to the country with him. He decides to ignore her moods and leaves in the carriage.
Anna is convinced Vronsky is gone for good but she is told he has gone to his stable. She sends a servant with a note imploring him to come back. She goes to the nursery to play with Annie but gets no comfort from it. She can’t remember doing her hair although the mirror proves that she has – Anna feels she is losing her grip on reality. The servant returns and says they could not catch Vronsky before he left for the city. She sends him to Vronsky’s mother to intercept him. Her female servant gives her sympathetic looks as Anna prepares to go to Dolly’s, desperate to get out of the house.
In the carriage Anna’s thoughts of death recur. She decides to talk to Dolly about her domestic situation. Her mind wanders and her thoughts are disorganized and incoherent – full of current influences and past experiences. Kitty is at Dolly’s, which reminds her of Vronsky’s past flirtation with the young woman. Dolly talks to her alone which Anna perceives as a snub from Kitty. Dolly gives Anna a letter from Stepan and Kitty comes in to visit with her, feeling more kindly when she sees how wretched Anna looks. The ladies talk for awhile and after she leaves they agree there is something piteous about Anna.
Anna returns to her carriage more confused than ever. Her thoughts continue to be tortured and incoherent. She feels both Dolly and Kitty despise her and all of mankind is full of hatred. When she gets home there is a telegram from Vronsky saying he can’t be home before ten. Anna begins to feel hatred for Vronsky and decides she must go find him at the railway station. She packs a small bag, skips dinner, and went out in the carriage once more, with a servant accompanying her to buy her a train ticket.
Heading for the railway station, Anna is again filled with incoherent thoughts and tirades against her fellow man. She begins to feel Vronsky never did love her – that his attraction was all about vanity. She now looks at their affair differently – that she loves him but his love for her has died. She does not want him to stay out of duty and now a divorce from Karenin really makes no difference. She even feels she has learned to love without Seryozha. When she gets to the station her servant buys her ticket to Obiralovka, to Vronsky’s mother’s home.
Anna’s black mood continues as she settles down for the train journey. A couple join her in her compartment and to her they are monstrous and she is convinced they hate each other. She overreacts to everything they do. When she reaches her destination, she is not sure why she is there. Vronsky’s coachman shows up and gives her a note saying Vronsky will be home at ten. She dismisses him and walks aimlessly along the platform. She thinks of the man who died on the tracks the day she met Vronsky and she thinks of suicide. Anna watches for a chance and throws herself under a passing train. She dies almost immediately.
It is two months later. Konstantin Levin’s half-brother, Sergey, has finished his book on government in Russia and Europe and he was hopeful for its success now that it had been published. Weeks passed and the world seemed unimpressed with his work – few mention it and three months later there is just one review. Sergey had no respect for the reviewer and thought the piece was terrible. His energy is now dedicated to the cause of the Slavonic States, as is everyone else in his circle. Everyone was supporting the cause of the Servians and Montenegrins. He worked hard and was finally heading to his brother’s in the country for a rest.
Sergey goes to the station with Katavasov where many volunteers are going to the front. He sees a princess who says more than a million men have signed up. They discuss how the Turks are losing ground after three days of heavy fighting. She tells Sergey Vronsky is on the train, heading out as a volunteer. Suddenly Stepan Oblonsky appears, happy to see Sergey who tells him he is off to see Konstantin and Kitty. Stepan tells him his wife Dolly is there as well. The princess tells him Vronsky is leaving on the train and Stepan looks momentarily sad. Vronsky walks by with his mother looking unhappy. He soon gets on the train.
Sergey and Katavasov get on a train full of soldiers. Katavasov is curious about the men so he goes to the second-class carriage to talk to them. There is a loud young man there Katavasov engages in conversation. He forms a negative opinion of him. The second man, an officer, does not impress him either. Another, an artilleryman, does impress him with his quiet demeanor. Katavasov later talks to an elderly military officer who had been listening in – he did not consider the young men great soldiers. When Katavasov returns to his carriage he tells Sergey the men will make great soldiers, contradicting what he really thinks.
When the train stops Sergey walks up and down the platform and sees Vronsky’s mother in the one of the carriages. Vronsky has gone somewhere and they talk about Anna’s death. His mother describes his behavior over the past six weeks – not eating, not speaking, and almost suicidal. She says Anna’s death was “low and vulgar” and that she ruined two men, her husband and Vronsky. Vronsky went into complete shock after her death and gave up his daughter to Karenin. Vronsky is now prepared to go to war for the Servians. His other looks upon it as a distraction for him.
Sergey crosses over to the other platform to speak to Vronsky, who is walking up and down. Sergey offers to give him letters of introduction to Servian leaders, but Vronsky refuses, saying he is ready to find the Turks. He says he now has a reason to live. Sergey wishes him well. Vronsky is full of anguish, not able to blot out the image of Anna’s dead body at the train station. He kept recalling her saying he would be sorry when she was dead. He cannot remember the good times as they have been contaminated by her final action.
Sergey, with Katavasov, goes to see his brother – he has not wired ahead to let Konstantin know he is coming. The men joke about the area being a “peaceful backwater”. Kitty’s father is also visiting, as well as his sister Dolly. Kitty is still nursing her baby son and hurries to feed him, scolding Agafea for letting the baby scream. She settles down to feed him and the two women tease each other about who the baby knows better. Kitty already thinks the sun and rises and sets with young “Mitya.”
Kitty thinks about Konstantin as she nurses the baby, how he spends a lot of time in the bee house. She knows he is better now that he was earlier in the year but worries about his moods and attributes them to his lack of religious belief. She does not understand his philosophical leanings, worries about his soul and that he thinks too much. In her opinion, Konstantin spends too much time alone. She is glad Katavasov is visiting – Konstantin enjoys their discussions. She appreciates Konstantin’s goodness and his honesty. She hopes her son will be like his father.
Konstantin has given much thought to death since his brother passed away. He is frightened by its unknown quality. These thoughts have been bothering him even more since his life has settled into a routine with Kitty and the baby. Questions of religious belief crowd his mind. He marvels that other men so easily change their ideas with fashion and wonder how sincere they are. Most people seem to accept traditional beliefs as truth. He is amazed at himself for praying while Kitty was in labor. Konstantin is a man who needs to know the answers to his questions.
Konstantin’s questioning has led him to read deeply of many philosophers. None of them truly answer the questions he has, although some of their ideas intrigue him, including the idea of the Russian church existing thanks to God’s wishes. When he reads other writers on the Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church, they put forward the same argument. Konstantin is still confused and his questions have not been answered. To find the answers suicide looks like the only answer – he is tempted, but goes on living.
Konstantin at times questions his sanity. Going back home to the country from Moscow he returned to his old rural life. He is determined to maintain the life that his forefathers lived so that he will pass on to his descendants. He shoulders some responsibility for the affairs of Dolly (Stepan has just about ruined their finances), Sergey, his own family, and the peasants who depend on him. He is constantly comparing best business practices with what is honest and right. He cannot tolerate bad behavior on the part of his peasants, such as theft or dishonesty but he must make sure his ill and elderly peasants are taken care of. Life is a constant juggling act.
When Sergey arrives at his brother’s the farm is very busy; it is the height of the farming season. Despite the hard work Konstantin always feels energized at this time of year. The endless toil of the peasants leads him to thinking of what they live and die for – their lives are often short and consist mainly of work. He goes into the fields and begins to work some of the machinery with a peasant named Fyodor. They discuss how some peasants work for themselves and some for God. This idea excites Konstantin and he heads home, his mind full of ideas.
Konstantin seems to have “seen the light” after his discussion with the peasant, almost a religious conversion. Intellectually he does not accept the idea of “living for God” but as an idea, and emotionally, it appeals to him. He understands that man must work for the sake of what is good. On his way home he lays down in the woods and just enjoys nature, which is the force of God that he knows has always driven him. Konstantin also realizes that the meaning of life comes in the living of it – that his happiest times have been when he was fully engaged in living.
Konstantin has observed Dolly’s dealing with her children’s mischief – she threatens them with all sorts of dire consequences but the children seem to know nothing will happen and simply listen passively. They would much rather try out new fun activities than worry about being caught. He believes this mirrors his own quest for the truth, as well as those of other humans. He is more convinced than ever that the truth of God has been revealed to him. He is less certain that the churches have the answers. But he feels awakened to faith and as he lies in the grass he cries over finding God.
Konstantin is returned to reality when his coachman tells him his brother and another visitor has arrived. He feels that now all his relationships will change for the better but it isn’t long before he loses his patience with the coachman. Katavasov and Sergey have arrived. Sergey tells him he has come to stay for two weeks and that he has business in Moscow. Konstantin thinks this is something to do with the Servian conflict and he does not want to discuss it. His old lack of ease with other people has not disappeared. He goes alone to bee house and ponders his earlier spiritual feeling, hoping it is not just temporary.
Dolly tells Konstantin that Sergey saw Vronsky on the train, heading for the Servian front. Katavasov adds that Vronsky is taking a squadron with him at his own expense. Prince Shtcherbatsky, Kitty’s father, wants to know what the conflict is all about and Sergey explains that it is an undeclared conflict with the Turks. Konstantin states that private persons cannot take soldiers there without permission from the government. The men start discussing the conflict and whether it is based on religion, with Christians being slaughtered.
The men discuss the political process and if being able to vote is wise for the people of Russia. The prince mentions his son-in-law Stepan and how he has got a well-paid job in the civil service where he really has nothing to do. They also say the newspapers have a stake in promoting war as they make money off it – sales go higher. Sergey says things are improving in Russia because now people are brave enough to speak up about the things that need improvement. Konstantin draws on religious arguments against war, but does not get far with the other men.
The group disperse, leaving the bee house and heading back to the farm house. A storm is beginning. They reach the house just as the rain begins. They notice when they get there that Kitty and her baby are not home. Agafea says they are in a copse in the woods where it is cooler. Konstantin hurries off to find them. The wind is blowing ferociously. As he approaches the copse there is a lightning strike and a huge oak falls. He prays to God that everyone is safe. Konstantin finds Kitty, Mitya, and the nurse unharmed. He is at first angry but then thanks God that they are safe.
Konstantin is happy with relief and his newfound spirituality. His house is crowded, but he enjoys the company and the discussions with his guests. Called by Kitty while she is giving their son a bath, he has to tear himself away from the discussion of Russian social change tend to the simple domestic arrangements of home. In the nursery Kitty joyfully tells him that Mitya can now recognize his parents and he does seem to know Konstantin, who was delighted. Kitty is glad that he is bonding with his son. Konstantin recognizes his fear for his wife and son during the storm is part of his love for them.
Konstantin goes out on the porch to be on his own for a while. The storm is has moved miles away. The stars are coming out. He again ponders on Divinity and wonders if non-Christians are damned. He comes to the conclusion that it is not for him to know, as a mere mortal, what will happen to those of other religions. Kitty joins him outside and finds him calm and happy. She asks him to see if Sergey’s room is alright and rather than talk to her about his new revelations, he agrees – he knows he will continue his life as before, but with a new faith and with prayer to guide him.
Cover Image © Elena Schweitzer – Fotolia.com