Literature Study GuidesAnna KareninaPart 2 Chapters 11 15 Summary

Anna Karenina | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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Anna Karenina | Part 2, Chapters 11–15 | Summary

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Summary

In Chapter 11, the narrator abruptly says that after almost a year of pursuit, Vronsky finally satisfies his desire. Anna instinctively asks for forgiveness, and because only Vronsky is in the room, she directs her plea to him. "And he felt what a murderer must feel when he looks at the body he has deprived of life." She tells him that he ought to remember that all she has now is him. Anna begins having a recurring dream, which horrifies her, in which both Karenin and Vronsky are her husbands.

Chapter 12 returns the reader to Levin in his country home, after Kitty's refusal, as a new spring farming season arrives. In Chapter 13, Levin feels frustration because his orders are often carried out improperly or not at all, and the steward blames the peasant workers for these ills. Despite his frustration, Levin cannot help but be pleased with the beautiful spring. When he returns to the house in Chapter 14, he finds that Stiva has come to visit him. Stiva has to sell the wood on his wife's property, and he also tells his friend he has a new, illicit love interest. The two men go bird hunting in Chapter 15, and when Levin asks his friend about Kitty, Stiva says she has been ill and did not marry Vronsky.

Analysis

Anna experiences many contradictory emotions upon her surrender to Vronsky—and not the happiness he feels when their passion is consummated. She feels loathing and horror, as well as shame and joy. Her dream of two husbands indicates an unconscious attempt to reconcile these two relationships. In the dream she tells them "now they were both content and happy," when, in fact, both of them will soon be very unhappy.

In this novel, Tolstoy delves deeply into the dark side of sexual relationships. The author battled his entire life with his own contradictory feelings about sex: for him, sexual acts had a sordid aspect he could not reconcile with the lofty feelings of love felt in the early stages of romance, nor with the commitment made when the bloom comes off the rose. The narrator says the "body ... [of] their first period of love" had been killed because the pure, passionate expectation of union has been brought down to earth in the reality of the physical act of sex—quite ordinary by comparison.

The abrupt shift to Levin's farm symbolizes the vast difference between the adulterous lovers and Levin's feelings for Kitty. No doubt Levin is sexually attracted to Kitty, but the focus of his regard lies in their long-standing friendship. Vronsky's initial attraction to Anna is focused on her physicality. As the story advances, it becomes clear that the intensity of his feelings for Anna take him somewhat by surprise.

Also contrasted are Anna and Stiva. While Anna has horror and remorse about stepping outside the bounds of her marriage, Stiva continues to be cavalier about his casual romances, which are depleting the family fortunes—some of which came from his wife, Dolly. Readers of Anna Karenina sometimes mistake Tolstoy's intentions in the character of Stiva. He is a shallow and heartless aristocrat who always puts his own needs ahead of others. While he has the veneer of kindheartedness, he will put himself out for people only if it does not cost too much.

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