HomeLiterature Study GuidesAnna KareninaPart 1 Chapters 2630 Summary

Anna Karenina | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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Anna Karenina | Part 1, Chapters 26–30 | Summary

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Summary

In Chapter 26, Levin returns home from Moscow, determined not to "hope any more for the extraordinary happiness that marriage would have given him," or allow himself to be carried away by "vile passion." Despite his disappointment, he is happy to be home and pleasantly surprised that a prize cow has calved. Agafya Mikhailovna, Levin's old nurse and now housekeeper, acknowledges Levin's sadness in Chapter 27.

Back at the Oblonsky house in Chapter 28, Anna decides to leave immediately. She confesses to Dolly that she spoiled the ball for Kitty, but was only "a little" to blame, and Dolly jokes that she sounds like her brother. Anna denies the similarity but admits to herself she is excited and disturbed by what happened. Once settled on the train in Chapter 29, she feels relieved to be returning to her old life and husband and son. Anna falls asleep and dreams she is falling through the floor. She is awakened by the conductor at the next station and goes outside for a breath of fresh air. On the platform she recognizes Vronsky and asks him why he is going back to Petersburg. "You know I am going in order to be where you are ... I cannot do otherwise," he answers in Chapter 30. She begs him to forget his words and feels both scared and elated. Upon meeting her husband in Petersburg, she feels disappointed when she notices his ears on which his hat rests and his "habitual mocking smile."

Analysis

In a turn of situational irony, Anna has come to Moscow to ask a wife to forgive her wayward husband while she herself lays the groundwork for her own adulterous affair. Anna and Stiva are similar in that both crave sexual passion and both go outside of their marriages to find it. Anna is different from Stiva in that she is not interested in casual affairs. Rather, her loneliness and craving for affection pull her in Vronsky's direction. But for now, Anna feels guilty about what happened at the ball and wishes the sudden infatuation to quickly end. She looks forward to returning to her normal life, but on the train Vronsky intrudes once again, arousing her desire for his novel and passionate regard. In insistently inserting himself into Anna's life, Vronsky clearly understands that she is not an impregnable fortress.

Anna's dream of falling through the floor of the train symbolizes her fall from society and its norms, which is what will happen if she takes up with Vronsky. Gary Jahn (1981) points out that the train symbolizes society, and when Anna steps outside of the train and meets Vronsky again, he is an external force luring her beyond the safe boundaries of her conventional relationship. When she sees her husband upon disembarking from the train in Petersburg, Karenin appears to her to be lacking. The possibility of another relationship on the horizon suddenly throws her marriage into relief, and she becomes aware of a "pretense" in her dealings with Karenin that she has not noticed before.

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