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Anna Karenina | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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Anna Karenina | Part 1, Chapters 21–25 | Summary

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Summary

In Chapter 21, Anna realizes that Dolly and Stiva have reconciled because of Dolly's mocking banter and Stiva's slightly guilty cheerfulness. On the day of the ball in Chapter 22, Kitty carefully attends to her toilette and makes a strong impression on everyone. Anna wears "a low-cut black velvet dress, which revealed her full shoulders and bosom, as if shaped from old ivory," which greatly impresses Vronsky. Anna initially ignores Vronsky, and he absently dances with Kitty. In Chapter 23, when Kitty looks at him with love, he does not respond. Kitty expects to dance the mazurka with him and has already turned down five invitations. But she then sees Anna "drunk with the wine of the rapture she inspired." Kitty retires to another room, and Countess Nordston finds her and puts her with her own partner. On the dance floor she helplessly watches Vronsky and Anna dance the mazurka, and when Kitty looks at her with despair, Anna merely turns away.

Chapter 24 moves back slightly in time, with Levin visiting his brother Nikolai after leaving the Shcherbatskys. Nikolai is living in a run-down hotel with a common-law wife, a former prostitute. Nikolai is cross and defensive with his brother but calms down when he learns in Chapter 25 that Levin does not judge him. His brother is consumptive (has signs of tuberculosis) and also drinks too much. When they put him to bed, Marya Nikolaevna, his brother's companion, promises to convince Nikolai to go to the country and live with Levin.

Analysis

Anna initially ignores Vronsky because she wishes to avoid his attraction, both for her own and Kitty's sake. However, she ultimately cannot resist his worship, and as Kitty observes, "Each time he addressed Anna, he bowed his head slightly, as if wishing to fall down before her, and in his glance there were only obedience and fear." Kitty is mortified when she realizes her look of love is not returned by Vronsky and that his interest now lies elsewhere.

The highlight of a Russian ball is the mazurka, originally a Polish folk dance, and by rights Vronsky should have asked Kitty to dance, because his behavior up until now has been one of a suitor. To Kitty's considerable horror, she watches Vronsky fall in love with Anna right before her eyes, while Anna takes his worship as her due. Anna is victorious over Vronsky and does not want Kitty's broken heart to mar her enjoyment. It is as if Anna is of two minds: one belongs to the responsible matron and the other to a beautiful woman who cannot help but bask in Vronsky's infatuation. She deliberately ignores the pain of the younger woman, crestfallen because of the betrayal of her suitor; thus she tacitly accepts Vronsky's advances, even though she is a married woman.

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