HomeLiterature Study GuidesAnna KareninaPart 2 Chapters 21 25 Summary

Anna Karenina | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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Anna Karenina | Part 2, Chapters 21–25 | Summary

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Summary

In Chapter 21, Vronsky goes to visit his beloved horse, Frou-Frou, and the trainer reminds him to stay calm and not do anything to upset himself. In the carriage on his way to see Anna, he reads nagging letters from his mother and brother who do not understand that "this woman is dearer to [him] than life." He is upset about the necessity of having to lie about his relationship and wants things to change.

Vronsky is also troubled, the reader learns in Chapter 22, by Seryozha, who sees him quite often but does not know what to make of him. Today, however, Anna is home alone. She tells him she is pregnant, and he urges her to leave her husband. Anna says in Chapter 23 that Karenin will say he cannot release her. "He's not a man, he's a machine," she concludes. She does not want to run away with Vronsky and leave Seryozha behind, although she cannot bring herself to say so and simply begs him to drop the idea.

Vronsky now realizes he is running late and gets to the races just in time in Chapter 24. Once the race is underway, he takes the lead, but because he wants a "long first" he pushes the horse further, but then fails to keep up in his saddle, and Frou-Frou stumbles and falls, breaking her back. Although Vronsky is unhurt, the horse must be shot. The death of the horse is a great misfortune that Vronsky knows is his own fault.

Analysis

Anna's pregnancy lends urgency to Vronsky's desire to openly love her. She also dislikes the lying and sneaking around, but she has more at stake, because her son legally belongs to Karenin, and she cannot take him with her. The couple are deeply in love and willing to sacrifice almost anything for each other, but the "almost" becomes everything. Vronsky is defying his family and has already given up a post that would advance his career in order to be near Anna; she, of course, risks her reputation and the loss of her child. Anna describes her husband in the worst possible terms to Vronsky, bad qualities that the reader must judge for him- or herself. She believes he is only concerned with propriety and his good name.

Vronsky is overly excited by the time he gets to the race and his passion causes him to have poor judgment. Frou-Frou symbolizes Anna and his relationship with her. Like the horse, she is beautiful and high-strung, and he has the upper hand. He initiated the affair and has a freedom of movement that is closed to Anna. The consequences of the affair are much more serious for her, just as the perils of racing are graver for the horse. Vronsky expects to successfully overcome their difficulties in being a couple because he is used to winning, but he has miscalculated his odds.

Surprisingly, he does not understand how important Seryozha is to Anna, and perhaps not so surprisingly, she does not disclose this important information. By throwing her lot in with Vronsky, Anna puts herself in a completely dependent situation made doubly dependent because of pregnancy. Ultimately, Vronsky's desire will end up destroying Anna, just as it did the horse.

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