By Crane Stephen
By Crane Stephen
Red Badge of Courage was written in 1893 by the young author Stephen Crane, and was first serialized in a newspaper in 1894. A full, complete novel was published in 1895, making the formerly unknown author Stephen Crane an instant success.
Crane was born in 1871 and grew up in New Jersey with his highly religious parents. Because of his upbringing, he became extremely rebellious in his young adulthood. Eventually, he became a full time writer and dedicated himself to creating authentic experiences. He was known for getting these authentic experiences by simulating as best he could the conditions of the characters in his novels; in researching for one of his short novels, for instance, he lived in extreme poverty for a time.
In a twist of irony, the Red Badge of Courage, the book he ended up being most famous for, was written without any personal experience of war or battle. The book is praised for its realistic vision of the American Civil War and is thought to be based on the Battle of Chancellorsville. In the late 1800’s when Red Badge of Courage was released, all the books and stories about wartime were highly idealistic and glorified the battlefield. Crane’s highly personal psychological examination and brutal realism made waves in the literary world and is thought to have influenced many modernist writers.
When it was first published, Red Badge of Courage was an instant success in England and later in America. The book was met with both wide acclaim and strong criticism. Some accused Crane of being too young, and others didn’t like the movement away from portraying the glory of war rather than the realism. Others praised the book for its absence of political or militaristic views and highly emotional writing. Because Crane rarely used names in his writing, the book lent itself strongly to allegory of war rather than focusing on specific times or places.
Stephen Crane died only four years after publishing the Red Badge of Courage at the young age of twenty eight. He had moved to England with his wife and wrote constantly, trying to cash in on his newfound fame. Eventually, however, he succumbed to tuberculosis, leaving the Red Badge of Courage as his crowning glory.
Since it was published, Red Badge of Courage has never gone out of print. In the 1920’s, the book became popular again. There were numerous film adaptations throughout the years, and many different publications. Over time, the Red Badge of Courage has come to be known as a classic American work and is taught in schools all across the world.
During the American Civil War, a Union regiment has been stationed near a river for some time. The soldiers are getting restless, and a tall soldier named Jim Conklin brings news one day that the regiment will be marching. This news sends the protagonist of the novel, Henry Fleming, into a fit of worry. He joined the army because he idealized tales of battle and glory, but the 304th regiment hasn’t been in battle yet and he is afraid he might run away.
The regiment marches for several days until they reach the scene of the battle. By the time they get there, they are exhausted, but Henry is still curious. The 304th regiment successfully holds off an enemy charge, and Henry as well as the rest of the regiment celebrates. Soon after, the enemy makes a second charge and this time the soldiers aren’t prepared. Henry freaks and runs, along with many of the new recruits. He tells himself that the men who stayed were fools, and that is only survival to run. When he overhears a general say that they held back the enemy, however, he is ashamed by his cowardice. He runs farther into the forest and eventually runs into the rotting corpse of a dead soldier, which unsettles him and sends him back towards the army.
He runs until he spots a retreating group of wounded soldiers and joins their ranks. He is jealous of their wounds and thinks that they are “red badges of courage”, or proof of their bravery in battle. A tattered soldier asks him where he is wounded, and Henry runs off, embarrassed. He comes across a dying soldier who he later recognizes as Jim from his regiment. Jim runs off into the woods and Henry and the tattered soldier follow. Eventually Jim dies, and the tattered soldier starts following Henry, who ends up leaving him in a field where he will most likely die from his wounds.
Back at the road, he encounters a fleeing regiment. When he tries to ask what happened, he is hit in the head with a rifle. Dizzy and stumbling, he is helped by a stranger who takes him back to his regiment. Back at camp, Henry’s friend Wilson thought he was dead and happily takes care of him. They sleep and wake up the next day with orders to fight again.
During his second battle, Henry loses himself in battle fury and impresses his lieutenant with his ferocity. After holding off another enemy attack, he and Wilson go to get water and overhear a general and captain talking about sending their regiment in to a dangerous area of battle. They insult the regiment’s fighting ability, insinuating that they would only be useful as a distraction. Angered, Henry and Wilson return to camp and spread the news. Sure enough, they are sent back into battle. Henry and Wilson lead the charge, and Henry grabs the regiment’s flag when the flag bearer dies. After they retreat, they are told the general thought they were the best fighters in the regiment.
In order to stay alive, the 304th regiment must reclaim the fence line from the enemy. During this skirmish, Henry holds the flag and Wilson succeeds in getting the enemy flag. They also catch four prisoners. After this victory, their regiment begins marching back to the river. Henry thinks about all that has happened, and glorifies his successes. His failures creep into his thoughts, however, spoiling his heroic effect. The tattered man in particular leaves Henry guilt ridden. He gets past it, however, and realizes that his experiences on the battlefield have made him a real man.
During the novel, Henry measures himself and others by noting how courageous or cowardly they are. His greatest fear is that he will turn out to be a coward when it is time to battle, and, although he runs away once he faces his fears the next and day turns his cowardice into heroism. Ironically, the only time Henry loses himself enough to stop actively thinking about being courageous is when he discovers that he is capable of it. After everything, he is able to admit that he was not courageous all the time, but that is part of war.
At its center, Red Badge of Courage is about a boy maturing from an anxious youth into a more confident man. This theme is emphasized by the author never referring to Henry by his name but only as “the youth”. Part of the reason Henry is so obsessed with the idea of courage is that having courage would automatically make him manly. In the regiment, Henry is convinced that any weakness seen will be laughed at and mocked continuously. By the end of the story, Henry has a quiet manliness that will stay with him after the battle.
There is a strong disconnect between what Henry’s idea of war and how a battle actually is. He joined the army because he wanted to take part in something glorious and heroic, that people would write tales about and be awestruck by. The reality he finds is just the opposite – it is brutal, bloody and dehumanizing. Even heroic acts are done in moments of desperation. Eventually, Henry realizes that there is no such thing as a romantic view of war, because it will always be tainted by the dehumanizing and traumatizing effects.
Throughout Red Badge of Courage, Henry almost constantly notices the state of nature around him. He records the way the sky and trees look, as well as the way the animals sound. In the brief respites between battles, he is utterly surprised that nature can look so calm compared to the chaos of war. He comes to the conclusion that nature cares nothing for the human race, and admires its beauty because of that. The final paragraph of the novel focuses on the indifferent yet beautiful sky.
Henry’s struggle with courage hinges on the fact that he wants to survive. When he runs away from the enemy charge, it is because he is certain that he is going to die. It was a instinctual reaction to physical combat, one that Henry tries to rationalize by looking around at nature and seeing how other creatures put their survival first. Ultimately, however, his view changes after he experiences his first battle rage, when he finds out that fighting and not just surviving is also part of his nature.
One of the more significant parts in the novel happens when Henry wishes for a wound, a “red badge of courage” to show his bravery in battle. This shows what lengths Henry will go to in order to try and make himself look better and more courageous. Henry does get a wound, but it is not during battle. He is injured by the rifle of a fleeing soldier on his own side, making his wound the opposite of courageous. His friend Wilson tends to Henry’s wound, and Henry is so ashamed he lies and says it was from a gunshot.
The inevitable consequence of war and getting wounded is dying, and during his time in the army Henry comes across death several times. The first time he sees a corpse he wishes he could stop and examine it. Since he has not been in battle, he almost doesn’t view it as real. After his first battle, however, when he runs into the decaying soldier in the woods, he is shaken to his soul. He sees more than he wants to and is afraid. Later, when he watches his comrade Jim die and leaves the tattered man, death become even more real for him. When he comes out of battle alive, he is overcome with thankfulness for the opportunity to live.
In many ways, Red Badge of Courage is an in depth psychological study of the consciousness of one young man. Because of this, it was unlike any other war novel ever released. Much of the action takes place exclusively in the mind of the main character, and his thoughts and feelings change drastically from one sentence to the next, often contradicting each other in the same paragraph. Through the single character of Henry Fleming, aspects of the human mind common to all people are explored.
The relationships formed between soldiers during combat are often intense because of the constant tension and danger surrounding them. During his time in battle, Henry Fleming gains and loses several friends. At first he feels cut off from everyone else in his regiment. After battling with the other men, however, Henry feels strong bonds form between him and his comrades. He is helped by strangers and by his friend Wilson, who he develops a distinctive bond with.
Throughout the narrative, special attention is given to the sounds or lack thereof in the setting. While in combat, the noise is in the form of musket and cannon fire. In the woods, animals and wind. On rare occasions, there are no sounds, resulting in the effect of a pause on the page. By focusing so intently on sounds, Crane keeps the focus on the inner mind of Henry Fleming rather than the external situation visuals would provide.
The main character of Red Badge of Courage, the entire book takes place entirely in Henry Fleming’s mind. A young boy who dreamed of the glories of war, Henry joined the army despite his mother’s protests expecting to become a hero. In reality, Henry realizes that war is brutal, vicious, and utterly inglorious. At the beginning of the novel, Henry is a naive and scared youth. He is full of doubt, contradictory thoughts, and rationalizations for his actions. Throughout his struggles, he faces his fears and becomes a young man because of his experiences at war.
Wilson is another youth, like Henry, who experiences battle for the first time along with him. Before they enter battle, Wilson boasts and talks big, but when it comes time to fight he is so sure he is going to die that he hands Henry letters to give to his family back home after he is gone. The two are reunited at the end of the first day, and Wilson tends to Henry’s head wound and gives him his blanket to sleep in. The second day of battle, both boys have gained courage enough to lead the charges, become the flag-bearers, and capture enemy soldiers.
Although not close friends with Henry, the two are acquainted because they are in the same regiment. While they are still at camp, Jim spreads the rumors that the regiment will be marching and defends his position. Excited about the prospect of battle, Jim is mortally wounded by a cannon ball to the side. Henry recognizes him even with his gray skin and wandering eyes in the column of wounded men. He tries to help Jim, who is so near death he goes crazy and runs into the fields before dying gruesomely. Jim’s death haunts Henry afterward, as it was his first experience watching someone die.
Henry meets the tattered soldier in the column of wounded men. The soldier, with his gentle voice, tries to make friends with Henry. Eventually, he asks Henry where he is wounded, and Henry is so ashamed he runs away. The tattered soldier follows Jim and Henry when they leave the column, and is there when Henry dies. He has been shot in two places, and his condition worsens as they are trying to make their way back towards the road. Henry gets so fed up with the tattered soldier’s questions and leaves him wandering around in a field. After the battles are over, his treatment of the tattered soldier is his biggest haunt.
A kind older soldier sees Henry staggering, dizzy from his head wound and helps him back to his regiment. Along the way, he keeps Henry’s attention by talking about the battles and telling stories from back home. Henry is grateful for the kindness the stranger shows him, but realizes later that he won’t ever be able to thank the man because he never saw his face.
The lieutenant is never named, but is in charge of Henry’s regiment which is made up mostly of new recruits. He is a good leader, alternating between cajoling and swearing as needed. He is pleased when Henry shows true ferocity and defends his soldiers, saying that they fought well, when others insult them.
One officer in particular angers Henry and Wilson when they overhear him say that their regiment fights like “mule drivers”. The officer doesn’t seem to treat the regiment as a system made up of human beings, but talks about them as if they were only tools. This upsets Henry and Wilson, prompting them to fight bravely in order to prove the officer wrong. Later, the officer tells the lieutenant that Henry and Wilson are good fighters, and they are so pleased they forget the officer’s previous offense.
A decaying corpse Henry runs across when he is fleeing deeper into the woods, the dead soldier has obviously been deceased awhile. His uniform is faded, his jaw slackened, his skin gray and partly eaten away. The sight of the dead soldier shocks Henry, and makes him realize his own mortality. Although the soldier is not alive, he and Henry exchange a long look in which Henry is unable to look away.
During the 304th Regiment’s last charge, Wilson and Henry succeed in capturing four prisoners of the enemy line. All the prisoners act differently upon being captured; some are friendly, others cruel, and one silent. The prisoners are never named, and Henry, although he does not view them with malice, he does not view them as human beings either. Rather, to him they proof of his success.
Henry’s mother appears in one short flashback of when Henry decided to join the army. While her son was caught up in the glorious image of war, Henry’s mother was all too aware of the reality behind it and strongly cautions her son against joining. When she realizes that he cannot be turned away, however, she does all she can to prepare him and give him sound advice. At the time, Henry is not appreciative and wishes that she would act tearful and proud like he thought she would in his mind.
The army is camped next to a river, with a road leading away. Across the river, another army is camped, and at night they can see the light of their fires. They have been stationed there for a while, and many of the soldiers are getting restless. One day, a tall soldier named Jim brings news that the regiment is going to move. Because it is a rumor, many are hesitant to believe it, but they are so bored that the rumor causes a commotion anyway. Arguments break out, and Jim defends his position.
One youth listens to all the soldiers talking for a while before going back to his small hut to be alone. He lies down on the bunk and thinks to himself about how he got there. Before joining the army, he dreamed of fighting and glory. When he told his mother he wanted to enlist she told him it was a lousy idea. One night, however, he heard the church bells ringing and decided that he was going to go through with it. He registered the next morning, and his mother was resigned when she found out.
When it came time for the youth to leave home, his mother gave him new socks and clothes and all sorts of practical advice. He was a little disappointed because he was expecting a more melodramatic scene. He tells her goodbye and sees her crying before going to wish his schoolmates farewell. They treated him as if he was something special, and he impressed one of the girls with his uniform. On the way to Washington, he was treated with respect everywhere he went, and many people wished him luck or gave him free food. Because of all the attention, the youth began to think that he was already a hero and let his dreams of grandeur on the battlefield run wild.
Once he got to the camp he was disappointed to find out that life among the army was boring. Every day was the same as the one before, and the soldiers had nothing to do to pass the time but sit around and tell war stories. The old veterans spent much of their time telling the younger soldiers about their glorious past battles, but the youth didn’t know if he could trust that their tales were true.
The youth’s thoughts turn to the prospect of battle. He is astonished to think that he might be in a real fight soon and wonders if he will run away once the battle begins. He realized that it is impossible to predict whether or not somebody is going to run, and he won’t know the answer for himself until his first fight. The youth begins daydreaming about the old Greek battles and recalling his conceptions of the army before he enlisted.
The young man jumps up and snaps himself out of his reverie. He starts nervously pacing the floor to try and calm himself down. Jim, the man who started the rumor, enters along with another soldier. They are still arguing about whether or not the regiment will move. The youth anxiously asks Jim if there is going to be a battle, and the tall soldier is sure there will be. He says that the cavalry has already been moved to Richmond and that they are next.
Still nursing his previous doubts, the youth wants to know if any boys will run during the fight. Jim admits that there are always a few who run, especially if there are a lot of new recruits who haven’t experienced gunfire yet. The young soldier asks Jim if he thought he was going to run before his first battle. Jim seems to know what the youth is thinking and answers that he would have done whatever the other soldiers were doing. If everyone was running, he would have run, but if everyone was holding their ground he would have done the same. The youth is reassured at Jim’s answer, and his anxieties subside somewhat.
In the morning, the rumors are proved false, and many of the soldiers are angry. The youth is thrown into turmoil once again and tries to calculate the odds of him running. He gives up, realizing that he won’t know until an actual battle begins. He tries to analyze and compare himself to the other soldiers, looking for signs that any of them are full of doubts. He goes back and forth between thinking that they are all heroes and all cowards who are afraid of battle. The youth listens to the men talking excitedly about battle and is ashamed of himself and his fears. He is also angry because nothing is happening.
One morning the regiment is lined up outside. Everyone is impatient, and suddenly they hear a horse galloping up the hill. The horseman speaks to the general, and the regiment begins moving. They march all day and the men debate about where they are all going. The youth feels cut off from everyone else and begins to delve into his own personal depression.
At night, they set up camp, and the youth keeps to himself as much as he can. He wishes that he were back at home because he misses his mother and the farm. Another soldier named Wilson comes over and asks the youth what is wrong. They begin talking, and Wilson, like the other soldiers, is excited about the upcoming fight. Wilson gets angry when the youth asks him if he would ever run, and leaves, indignant.
Alone, the youth is more anxious than ever. He can’t believe that no one else is worried about the battle and thinks he is different from all the other men. Finally, he lays down on his blanket to sleep, and dreams of running away from gunfire and smoke. Eventually, the youth falls asleep exhausted mentally and physically.
On the second night of the march, the youth becomes worried that the regiment is about to be assaulted at any second. He watches intently, but they make it through the night. In the morning, they reach a forest. They have been marching for three days now, and the novelty has worn off. The men begin to complain about sore feet, and drop any items they can to reduce the weight they are carrying.
This goes on for a few more days, until one morning the youth is kicked awake. Everyone is running, and he begins following the mob. No one knows what is going on, but they can hear firing in the distance. The boy is bewildered and tries not to fall behind. Realizing that the time he has been dreading has finally come, the youth looks around him. Since he is in the middle of a group, he could not run away even if he wanted to. He thinks that he never wanted to go to war and fears he is being led into a slaughter.
The regiment crosses a stream and comes to a hill. Curious, the youth climbs up and looks over. He expects to see a battle, but instead sees a few skirmishes on an open plain. He is fascinated with the skirmishes and does not watch where he is going. Eventually, the regiment comes across a dead soldier, and they avoid the corpse. The youth looks at the man closely and is interested.
After a while, the scenery becomes familiar, and the youth’s curiosity is satisfied. He has time to calm down and reflect and begins thinking all sorts of absurd thoughts. He thinks they are walking into a trap that his pants are too small, and wants to shout a warning for no reason. The youth knows that the other men would laugh at a warning and holds his tongue. He begins lagging behind until a lieutenant beats him with a sword and tells him to hurry up.
They come to a cathedral and stop. The soldiers begin making small hills for protection, and argue about battle strategy. Some think it would be better to stand and fight, like a duel, but others point out that the veterans are the ones making hills. Orders come to withdraw, and the youth is surprised. The soldiers thought they were going to stay, and hate to leave their barricades. They stop several more times, each time building and leaving more entrenchments. The youth is so high strung he begins complaining that he can’t stand the suspense. Others agree with him, but one of the higher ups gets on to them for making a ruckus.
That afternoon the regiment makes another circuit before going into new territory. Along with the new territory comes new fears in the mind of the youth, and the battle sounds they approach becomes more fierce. They finally come onto the scene of the battle, and it is full of gunfire, smoke, and the sound of heavy artillery. The youth gapes at the battle scene in front of him and suddenly feels a hand on his shoulder. He looks up to see another soldier, who tells him grimly that it will be his first and last battle. The soldier gives the youth a package to send to his family and the youth is a little angry. When he tries to talk to the soldier, the man walks away.
The brigade halts in the trees outside the grove where the main battle is taking place. They can see men running away, but can’t make out much else through all the smoke. The soldiers begin talking, wildly spreading rumors about who is injured, who killed how many enemies and where the other brigades have moved to. The youth is frozen at the sight of an actual battle.
A loud shell passes overhead and explodes in the center of the grove. Bullets are whizzing everywhere through the trees, and the lieutenant is shot in the hand. He begins swearing profusely, which relieves the tension of the troops somewhat. There is a battle flag in the center of the grove, where the majority of the action is taking place. The flag sinks down, and mobs begin running towards the trees. The soldiers coming towards the regiment are pale and frightened looking.
The youth watches the men fighting and fleeing. Some are desperately swinging swords; others are using their whole bodies. In the midst of the chaos, some of the older veterans joke. Seeing the horror in the faces of the fleeing soldiers, the youth realizes that if he could have moved his legs he would have already run away. As it is, he hasn’t seen what made the other brigade so frightened. He resolves to find out, and then run away as fast as he can.
The youth waits, frozen, for the battle to come to him. Someone cries out that the enemy is coming, and there is flurry of activity. He hears another cry, and everyone loads their guns. Across the field, the youth sees men running towards them swinging rifles. He is so startled he tries to remember if he loaded his gun or not. The general is barking instructions, telling them to hold their fire until the enemy closes in. The youth is nervous, but when he sees the men closing in he loses all his doubts and fires.
Suddenly, his entire mindset changes and he enters into a battle fury. He loses all individuality and is only one part of the larger regiment. The youth is aware of his comrades, and they give him assurance with their presence and mysterious connection. Eventually, physical sensations come back to him, and he realizes he is sweating and there is a roaring in his ears. He experiences an animalistic rage and wants nothing more than to kill. Other men are talking, swearing or making other, more guttural sounds. The firing seems to be at random, and the officers are still yelling.
One man tries to run away, and the lieutenant beats him until he is back in the ranks. Some men are dead, and others hiding. Finally, the firing dwindles and the smoke begins to clear. The youth realizes the enemy has scattered, and that the regiment is still intact. Some soldiers whoop and celebrate loudly, and others are silent. The youth is back to normal, and realizes how hard the smoke makes it to breathe. The wounded men are moved to the back, and to the left and right are other troops, some of them still fighting. The youth looks up at the sky and is surprised that it is so tranquil.
The youth comes back to himself, dazed. He realizes with joy that the battle is finally over and is satisfied with himself. He talks amiably with his other comrades and feels bonded to them all. Suddenly, someone cries that the enemy is coming back. The youth looks and sees the enemy soldiers running towards them once more. The men are disappointed, and don’t think that they can take another assault. Many begin complaining that they need additional support.
Firing begins, and the youth is numb. He lifts his rifle and tries to see through the smoke. Around him, soldiers begin to flee. The youth sees them and begins to run, as well. He runs blind, more afraid than when he was facing the enemy head on. The sound of the others running gives him relief. He crosses a field and dodges the shells. During his run, he passes experienced shooters and excited brigades about to go into battle. The youth pities them all.
Eventually, there are not as many noises, and the youth slows down. He begins to run at a steadier pace, instead of his terrified sprint. He comes across a general with a few other men and tries to get close enough to hear what they are saying. A part of him hopes that the general will want to know information that he has, but the men ignore him. The general gives orders to a messenger, who rides off. After a while, the general becomes excited because he finds out that the troops have successfully held the enemy off.
Upon hearing the news that their side was victorious, the youth feels betrayed and ashamed of himself. He looks out towards the battle just to be sure, and can hear cheering. The youth tells himself that he only ran because he was certain that they were going to be overwhelmed and killed. In his mind, he defends his actions. However, when he remembers his comrades he becomes bitter. When he fled, he experienced a sense of enlightenment, and was sure that everyone else who was staying were fools. Now that he has been proved wrong, he worries about what his comrades will say back at camp, that they will make fun of him.
Turning away from the area of the battle, the youth moves deeper into the woods. He wants to get away from all the noises and the shame. The trees become so dense he has trouble walking through the brush and doesn’t truly care where he goes as long as it is away. Eventually the sounds of musket and cannon fire fade away, and he hears only the sounds of birds, insects and animals in the forest. The landscape calms the youth. He sees a squirrel and throws a pine cone at it. When the squirrel runs away from the threat, he tells himself that it was only natural for him to run, as well.
He keeps going deeper and deeper into the woods, passing a swampy area and eventually ducking to go under an arch of trees. When he passes through, he is horrified to find himself face to face with a dead soldier. The dead man’s uniform was once blue, but has faded to an ugly green, and his skin is gray and crawling with ants. The youth shrieks and freezes, staring at the dead man leaning against the tree. He retreats slowly back through the trees, fearing that the body will come back to life at any second. When he is far enough away he sprints and runs until he is breathless, and pauses. Everything is quiet, and all he can hear is the sound of the trees.
A clamor of sounds breaks the silence of the twilit forest. The youth stops, transfixed by the noises. He hears musketry and artillery and in his mind imagines all the possibilities of what is happening in the battle. Suddenly, he begins running in the direction of the noises. A part of him realizes that it is ironic, him running towards the battle when he tried so hard to run away from it. He wants to see what is happening, though, and plows on.
The forest sounds are fading, and the noise of the battle intensifies. The youth thinks that it sounds different from the battle he was in, grander, and begins to imagine some supernatural battle in the air. During his battle, he thinks he and his comrades took everything too seriously, as if they were the only ones who could win the war. The images in his mind continue to build as he runs, and the trees and brush are hard to get through. The youth gets frustrated at nature and thinks to himself that the trees are trying to kill him. Still intent on finding the battle, he moves around the obstacles in his path.
Eventually, he sees smoke and hears the sound of cannons. The youth stands still, awestruck, and goes ford, intensely curious. He hops over a fence and finds several dead soldiers and dropped belongings. Here, the youth feels as if he is invading the territory of the dead and begins walking away. He comes to a road and sees some troops marching. The men are wounded. Some are cursing, some laughing, and some singing. Others are angry, sullen, or silent.
The youth joins the crowd and begins marching alongside them. The march is occasionally interrupted by messengers and batteries. One man in tattered clothing walks beside the youth. He is quiet and looks around him as if awestruck by everything he sees. After a time, the tattered soldier tries to talk to the youth about the battle. The youth ignores him, but the man continues talking in a gentle voice. The youth notices he is bleeding from two wounds. When the man asks the youth where he is hit, the youth stammers in embarrassment and runs until he is out of sight of the man.
The youth falls back until the tattered soldier is out of sight. He realizes that everyone around him is wounded and feels conspicuous. He glances around to make sure no one is watching him. A part of the youth is envious of the soldiers who are wounded, and he briefly wants a “red badge of courage” for himself. Beside the youth, a gray faced man is walking forward resolutely. He looks as if he is on his last leg, and some of the other soldiers try to ask about him.
The youth starts because he recognizes the dying man as Jim from his regiment. He calls out Jim’s name, and Jim, calling him Henry, holds out a gory hand. He talks incoherently about the battle and getting shot. Seeing that the soldier has someone looking after him, the other soldiers quiet down. Jim walks while gripping the youth’s arm and talking to him. He is afraid of being run over by the heavy artillery, and the youth promises to take care of him.
The rambling gets more and more incoherent, and Jim wants comfort from the young soldier. Here, the youth stammers and can’t answer Jim. After that, Jim stops leaning on the youth and walks away. The youth follows, not knowing what else to do. He feels a hand on his shoulder and looks back to see the tattered soldier. The soldier says that there is a battery coming and to get Jim out of the road. He can’t move fast enough and will probably be run over.
The youth coaxes Jim off the road and turns back to the man, before hearing some of the other soldiers should that Jim is running away. Stunned, the youth turns to see Jim struggling through the grasses, and the youth and the tattered soldier follow. When they try to ask him where he’s going, Jim tells them to leave him alone. They follow at a distance, watching him.
Eventually, Jim stands still as if he has finally found the place he has been looking for. His chest begins to heave, and the youth cries out his name over and over. Jim stiffens and begins to convulse, falling to the ground. Unable to do anything, the youth is frantic. After Jim is dead, the youth looks inside his jacket and sees a horrible gaping wound. He becomes angry and turns towards the battlefield, beginning to curse.
The tattered man is dumbfounded, and wonders where the dying man got the strength to go as far as he did. The youth sits down and begins to brood and the tattered man tries to shake him out of his reverie. He tells the youth that the soldier is dead and that they need to look out for themselves. The youth looks up and notices that the tattered man’s pallor has changed and become bluer.
Alarmed, he asks the man if he is going to die, as well. The man says he isn’t, and wishes for soup and a warm bed. They both gaze at the corpse, and the youth gets up. They leave, walking silently side by side. Eventually, the tattered man says he is feeling bad, and the youth asks him again if he is going to die. He says he isn’t, and begins talking about one of his war buddies named Tom, a neighbor from back home who distracted him. The tattered man blames him for getting him shot, and says he can’t walk much further.
The man once again asks the youth where his injuries are and says if they are internal not to take them too lightly. Angry, the youth yells at the man to go away and says goodbye. Confused, the tattered man tries to go after him, but his wits have slowed and his speech is slurring. The soldier calls the youth Tom, thinking he is his neighbor. The youth hops a fence a run away, looking back once to see the man wandering lost in the field. Bitter, the youth wishes he was dead. The tattered man’s questions cut through him like a knife, and he feels ashamed.
The sounds of battle are coming back, and Henry comes across the roadway. It is now full of men and wagons, and everyone is yelling over each other. There is a sense of fear about the group, and the youth is relieved to see them retreating. He takes a sort of pleasure in watching them run around like desperate animals. Through the chaos, a calm column of infantry soldiers makes their way through. They are heading back towards the battle, and it is obvious that they intend to fight.
Seeing their bravery and steadfastness, the youth plunges back into despair. He longs to be like them and thinks that they must all be heroes. He pictures himself as a mighty warrior, strong and fast, killing enemies left and right. His death is magnificent, and everyone will talk of his bravery. These thoughts make him feel better, and he gets the sudden urge to join the infantry and fight alongside them. Thinking, he realizes that he has no weapon and that he would have to go find his own regiment to fight with.
These thoughts bring him back to reality, and he no longer is able to see himself as a hero. Along with his return from daydreaming, he realizes that he is incredibly hungry. He is also thirsty, grimy, and aches all over. When he tries to walk, he struggles and realizes that his vision is blurry. Up until now, he was too caught up in his conflicting emotions to pay attention to his body, and now he gives up all hope of ever being a hero.
Stubborn, the youth stays near the battle field, wanting to see everything he can. He doesn’t know which side is winning, and this bothers him. He begins to think of the future for the first time and goes through his different options. If his side loses the fight, then his retreat won’t be too dishonorable. In fact, he might be thought of as particularly smart or perceptive. If they won, however, he would be lost. He tries to stop thinking about the problem and tells himself that he can’t root against his own side for purely selfish reasons.
Once again, he wishes he were dead so he wouldn’t have to deal with anything anymore. Grimly, he speculates that some of the dead men were killed before they could run, but in death they will still be hailed as heroes. He imagines going back to his regiment, and them all taunting and laughing at him.
A group of men are running towards the youth, terrified and desperate. Behind them, the youth sees smoke rising up above the trees. He puts aside his mental struggles and deduces that the fight must have been lost. Realizing this, he gets the irrational urge to sing a battle hymn. Instead, the youth tries to find out what is going on and begins asking the running men questions. They act as if he doesn’t exist, and finally the youth clutches a man’s arm to try and get him to stop long enough to answer his questions. The man is wild-eyed and yells at the youth to let him go. When the youth refuses, the man bashes him over the head with his rifle and runs away.
The youth sinks to the ground and struggles to get back up. Groaning, he gets on his hands and knees before standing shakily upright. He contemplates finding a soft place to fall and touches the wound on his head. When he sees blood on his fingers, he decides to focus on something else.
Nearby officers are trying to keep order, and he hears guns. Deciding he doesn’t want to be near the battle anymore, the youth walks away into the darkness. He looks behind, but all he sees are fire and shadows. The road is empty now, and the youth moves slowly so as not to get too dizzy. He fixates on the pain of his wound to keep him going. Soon though, his walk slows to a shuffle and he thinks about lying down to sleep.
He hears a friendly voice beside him asking if he is okay. The man pulls him up and helps the youth to walk. The youth, leaning on him, listens to the man talk. The man finds out what regiment the youth is from and begins talking about the days’ battle. Most of the troops saw combat, and the man watched as one of his close friends died. They come to a place where the forest is buzzing with activity and the man points to a fire and tells the youth that is where his regiment is. After seeing the youth safe back to his camp, the man clasps his fingers and walks away, whistling cheerfully. The youth, even in his muddled state, is grateful for the man’s kindness. Too late, he realizes that he never even saw the man’s face.
The youth moves towards the fire and thinks about how his comrades will welcome him. He wants to go hide in the darkness, but his body is aching and hungry and he’s too weak to hold out anymore. On the ground, the youth sees men sprawled out on the ground. He moves forward and is suddenly stopped by a gun barrel. Wilson is holding the gun, and once he finds out it is Henry he welcomes him back. They all thought he was dead, and are relieved to see him alive.
The youth loses the strength to stand and makes up a story to tell Wilson. He says he got separated and later shot in the head. Wilson goes to get help, and Henry is led to the fire to wait. His friend comes over to the fire to get a look at the wound. He deduces that the youth has been grazed by a cannon because there is a big lump on his head. He leaves, and the youth gazes into the fire. Men are sleeping everywhere, in all sorts of positions. An officer is asleep against the tree with his mouth open, and occasionally men stir.
After a time, his friend comes back to fix up the wound. He offers Henry coffee, which tastes delicious. After he has drunk his fill, his friend binds up his head with a makeshift bandage made out of a handkerchief. He gives him his blanket and puts him to bed. The youth realizes that his friend will have nowhere to sleep since he has the blanket, and says so, but is told to shut up and get some rest. The youth drifts off to sleep.
The youth wakes up just as the sun is rising. It is still chilly outside, and in the distance drums can be heard. Around him, he sees the still figures of the sleeping men. For an instant, he is convinced that they are all dead, and he is in the middle of a graveyard. He worries that they will come back to life and try to kill him to. Before he gets too scared, he hears other noises and turns to see his friend tending the fire.
Suddenly, he hears loud drums and bugles coming from the direction of the woods. The men around him begin to stir, and his friend asks him if he is alright. When the youth says he feels pretty bad, his friend starts checking his bandages. He is not good at it, and soon the youth gets angry telling him to be gentler. His friend doesn’t take it personally, and they go get food by the fire where a tall soldier is giving out rations of broth and meat. The youth notices that his friend, who was loud and boastful before the fighting started, is now calm and purposeful.
The two begin talking, and his friend asks what he thinks their chances are. Henry points out that before the battle started, he would have claimed to be able to win the war himself. His friend laughs and admits sadly that he was a fool to think that. He overheard the generals talking about how the enemy is right where they want them and is hopeful about the battle. Henry tells him that he thought they did terrible yesterday and gives him the news that Jim is dead.
Over at another fire, a few men begin arguing, and it looks like a fight is about to break out. Henry’s friend goes and calms them down and comes back to his own fire. He tells the youth that during the battle over half the regiment disappeared, but they kept trickling back during the night. They had been scattered throughout the woods and fighting with other regiments, just like Henry.
The regiment is ready to march. As he is standing waiting for the order to move, Henry remembers the packet of envelopes Wilson gave him the day before, when he thought he was going to die during the fight. He calls out Wilson’s name, then at the last second decides not to mention the letters. The envelope in his jacket pocket is proof that his friend was cowardly, and gives the youth a sense of power over him. His pride returns to him, and he recalls all those who he saw running away the previous day with scorn, convincing himself that he ran away with dignity.
His friend, blushing with shame, asks for his letters back. Henry reaches into his jacket and hands the envelope back to his friend. He wants to say something witty or clever, but can’t think of anything. Because he gave them back without acting condescending, Henry tells himself that he is more virtuous than most, who would have made fun of Wilson’s weakness. His mind wanders to the future, when he will return home a war hero and have exciting stories to tell his mother and any pretty woman who might listen.
The regiment goes to relieve another group who has been in the trenches all night. While waiting their turn, the youth’s friend sleeps with his head in his arms. The youth can’t sleep, although he feels exhausted still and looks out over the trench into the woods. He can’t see far because of the smoke and the trees. The noise of muskets and cannon fire is continuous, and eventually gets so loud that it is hard to even talk. The youth tries to make a joke, but no one hears him.
Eventually, the guns stop and the men are disheartened. Their regiment is disordered as they march out of the trenches, accepting their defeat. Sometimes through the trees they can see the enemy lines, and this enrages Henry. His friend tells him wearily that hey lost the battle, and the youth begins ranting about how bad the general is and how they keep being moved from place to place with no purpose. Wilson halfheartedly defends the general, but the youth continues in his rant.
They hear fighting again, and the regiment is stopped in a clearing. They form lines and get ready to face the enemy that is approaching them. The sun is all the way up in the sky, and the men are anxious. The youth can’t stop complaining about how badly the regiment is run, and eventually the lieutenant comes over and tells him to shut up. The sounds of battle get closet, and the men, tensed, wait for the enemy to appear.
The youth becomes enraged at the approaching enemy. He wants time to rest and think because he is sore and hungry. It seems to him that the other force never gets tired or has to rest, and he resents them for being so relentless in chasing the troops across the battlefield. The youth leans over to his friend and remarks that they better not chase them anymore, or there will be trouble. Wilson replies that if they lose any more ground they will be in the river. Hearing this, the youth’s rage is stoked. He looks wild and unkempt and grips his rifle.
Getting into position to fight, the youth feels like the enemy is taunting him. There are glimpses of them between the trees, and the regiment begins firing. A wall of smoke is created, and the youth thinks all the men look like animals in a pit. He loses himself in a battle fury and can’t think of anything but hate. He is not conscious of anything else, even standing or firing. He falls and thinks for a second he has been shot, but pushes the thought out of his mind and begins fighting again.
Henry positions himself behind a tree and vows to hold it no matter what. He loses all sense of direction except the location of the enemy and keeps firing. Soon, the enemy starts to fall back. The youth, triumphant, goes forward. He is not aware that there is a lull in the fighting until a voice tells him to stop shooting because there is nothing left to shoot at. Surprised, the youth looks up and realizes everyone else has stopped fighting and is staring at him. He has a moment of shock and goes towards them, falling on the ground in exhaustion and reaching for his water. The lieutenant is boasting that if everyone fought like he did they would win the entire war in a week.
All his comrades look awestruck, and Wilson asks him if he is alright. The youth says nothing is wrong and realizes that he was acting like a devil. Because of how the others are looking at him, he feels as if he has earned the status of hero. The regiment begins rejoicing at their success but farther off there are still sounds of fighting.
The soldiers have a short rest. One of them has been shot in the chest and is on the ground thrashing and screaming. Everyone else is hesitant to help the wounded man, and he curses them. Wilson wants to go find a stream and Henry goes with him. After searching for a while, they give up and start retracing their steps. On their way back, they can see the lines of battle better. Their troops are organizing into groups, and the roadway is full of retreating men.
They come across a general, and a commander talking, and try to get close to hear what they are saying. The enemy is getting ready for another charge, and the commander isn’t sure that they can hold them off a second time. He asks the general if he has any troops to spare, and the general says he can spare regiment 304, the youth’s regiment. They talk strategy and depart, but before he leaves the commander tells the general that he probably won’t get many of them back since the fighting will be so tough.
Henry and Wilson look at each other, scared, and go back to their regiment. Although they were only gone a short time, Henry feels as if he has aged immensely. The way in which the general talked about them, as if they were tools and not human beings, made the youth feel extremely insignificant. The lieutenant yells at them for taking too long before realizing that something is the matter. Wilson blurts out that they are going to be ordered to charge, and the lieutenant is happy to see some real fighting. The men clamor around and ask questions.
A few minutes later they see two men riding up. The officers begin getting the men back in order, and the youth looks at his friend. They nod to each other and mentally prepare themselves to go back into battle, even though they know that the chances of surviving are slim.
The regiment begins to move, and the youth begins running, taking the lead. They are heading towards a group of trees where the enemy is waiting. In the forest, their tight configuration is broken up and men begin running in small groups. Shells are falling all around, and one lands in the middle of a small group. Another group falls, riddled with bullets.
The youth has a rush of adrenaline and can see everything in detail. The men rushing forward are cheering insanely and have taken on a mob mentality. Soon, though, they can’t keep up their pace and slow down. Some of the soldiers begin to hesitate, as if being out of breath affects their courage. They cease advancing and hear the sound of muskets. Soldiers fall in their midst, and the group sits still, dazed.
Suddenly the lieutenant is in their faces cursing and telling them to get moving. He goes forward, and Wilson is aroused. He fires a shot into the cluster of trees, and the others follow his example. They begin moving forward again, slower, taking time to load and fire in the direction of the enemy. Soon they come to an open space and stop again, afraid to cross without any protection of trees. The lieutenant becomes angry and tells them to move or die. He tries to grab the youth and drag him, and the youth tells the lieutenant to go ahead himself.
They begin to run, the youth sprinting as fast as he can across the clearing. He keeps an eye on the flag when he sees the man holding it get shot and die still standing. His comrades try to get the flag away, but the corpse won’t let go. Finally they get it, and the body falls to the ground.
During the fight in the clearing, many of the regiment left only to come back. They retreat slowly, the lieutenant angry and telling everyone to shoot. The youth and his friend are both grasping the flag and fight over it. Finally, the youth pushes his friend away and grabs it.
The regiment retreats back into the trees and begin marching back. After tasting defeat, the men are discouraged. A few are still shooting, but not many. The youth goes forward uncertainly, his dreams of glory collapsed with the regiment. He turns his anger and hatred towards the general who treated them as mere tools, and is mad he could not prove them wrong. He holds the flag erect and tries to keep the men going, but it is useless. They leave wounded men on the ground crying for help.
The smoke lifts up, and suddenly the regiment is attacked again. The youth panics, thinking that they will never escape. Other soldiers, too, are in hysterics.
The group is buffeted by bullets, and Wilson comes over and says goodbye to Henry. The youth tells him to shut up and walks into the middle of the mob to take a stand. Men are hiding from the onslaught of bullets, and the lieutenant is not even shouting anymore. The enemy soldiers come at them directly, and the youth can see their faces and new uniforms. The smoke soon makes it hard to see again, and the two groups exchange blows.
The regiment keeps moving forward slowly, and the opposing blows begin to weaken. The regiment stays still and once they realize they won begin dancing with joy. Along with their victory, their pride as men has been restored.
There is no more firing in their clearing, although there are battle noises around them. The soldiers are relieved and get ready to finish their trip. On the way back, they experience an array of emotions, including fear and anxiety. Other soldiers who see them retreating taunt them, bringing their spirits down. The youth in particular is stung by the other soldiers’ remarks.
When they get back to their old position, the youth is shocked to realize that they didn’t travel far. The soldiers sit down and begin gulping down water, and Henry thinks about what happened. The officer from before returns and begins arguing with the lieutenant, calling their troops a failure. They were supposed to be a diversion, but they didn’t go far enough to do any good. The lieutenant defends his men, saying they did as well as they could. Meanwhile, the men nearby are listening in and circulating the news. They are angry at the colonel because they did their best, and Wilson and Henry both agree that the colonel has no sense.
Several men hurry up to Wilson and Henry, interrupting their conversation. They overheard the colonel and lieutenant talking, and the colonel wanted to know who the young boy was carrying the flag. The lieutenant told him it was Henry, and that he and Wilson were leading the charge the whole time. The colonel said that they out to be promoted to major-general. The boys think they are joking, but when it becomes clear that it isn’t a joke they are so happy they forget all about dissing the colonel and the lieutenant.
The enemies appear in the woods once again. The youth is confident and smiles at the men dodging bullet and shells desperately. Now that he is not blinded by battle rage, he can see the larger fight more clearly. There are two regiments fighting two other regiments, oblivious to everything else. There is a large brigade trying to force the enemy out of the woods, and a line of guns forming for attack. Eventually the enemy begins to retreat, and the regiment is still, waiting.
Without warning gunshots are heard from the wood. The noise soon becomes a roar, and the enemy, a desperate mob of men, run forward. His regiment is fierce, and at being shot immediately shoot back. Their skin is black from all the gunpowder and smoke. The lieutenant is cursing again, giving the men courage. The youth, still holding the colors, is totally absorbed in the battle.
Another line of enemies advance and the regiment immediately begins fending them off. There were no orders given, but they recognized the threat and took action. They are holding their ground, and the youth resolves not to give up his spot. During the battle, many are wounded. The soldiers begin to fall rapidly, and the youth looks for his friend. He finds him smeared with gunpowder still going strong. He realizes that their gunfire is becoming weaker.
The officers try to convince the colonel that they have to charge if they want to survive. The youth, overhearing them, does his own mental calculations. He realizes that they are right, and that if they don’t want to die they need to reclaim the fence. He looks at his companions and sees that they agree. The regiment has a new force and being running forward in a last display of strength. The youth stays in front, holding the flag high. He focuses intensely, thinking that when they take over their part of the fence it will have a domino effect, inspiring other regiments to do the same.
Most of the soldiers in gray flee, but one group refuses to move. The groups begin fighting directly, and the youth looks for the enemy flag thinking to get it. He leaps for it and sees that the color bearer has been shot several times and, although he is dying he tries to get away. Wilson springs at him and wrenches the flag from his grasp before the other bearer dies and there is wild cheering.
After the battle, they have four of the enemy as prisoners. Each prisoner reacts differently; one curses, one talks pleasantly, one sulks, and one is totally silent. Henry and Wilson sit down in the grass and congratulate each other.
The sounds of war are weakening, and the sound of musket fire is almost gone. After the constant stress of battle, the youth feels deadened and wonder what will come next. His friend thinks that they will head back towards the river back to the main camp. Sure enough, the orders come down to their regiment to go back, and the men get up, groaning at their aching bodies.
They march, joining other regiments until they are a large brigade heading back towards the river. As they are walking away, the youth looks back at the battle ground and is satisfied and relieved. He tells his friend that it is finally over, and they lapse into quiet reflection. It takes a while for the youth to remember how he thought before the battle, because his mind has been in a state of tension for so long. Eventually, however, he regains his former frame of thought and realizes that he has experienced the heat of battle and come out alive.
He begins to reflect on his actions during the battle. Only his heroic deeds were witnessed by his comrades, and for this he is proud and able to think of himself as a war hero. A small voice in his head, however, ruins this by mocking him for running away. His thoughts turn to the dying soldier he left wandering in the field, and he feels reproach so strongly he lets out a small cry of pain. His friend wants to know what is wrong, but the youth just swears. Thinking of how cruel he was in that instance ruins his heroic deeds, and he is afraid that the terror will stay with him forever.
To take his mind off it, the youth argues with his friend about battle plans and rumors. After a while, he is able to put his sin behind him, and he realizes that he despises battle. He feels manlier, and his soul has been forever changed from his experiences, both good and bad. It begins to rain, and the soldiers complain as they slog through the mud. The youth, however, is happy. He experienced battle and lost his humanity for a while in the process, but he came out alive. He looks around him at the sky and trees, and thinks of how glorious nature, and indeed the whole world, remains.
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