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Anna Karenina | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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Anna Karenina | Part 2, Chapters 6–10 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 6 describes Princess Betsy's salon, where she presides over a samovar (tea urn) on one side and the ambassador's wife at the other. In Betsy's aristocratic drawing room, shallow people find it difficult to talk about anything at length, so conversation descends into malicious gossip. At the end of the chapter Vronsky arrives. In Chapter 7, soon after, Anna enters the drawing room and takes a private moment to tell Vronsky "this must end" after she reprimands him for his behavior with Kitty. He shrugs it off, and when he asks her in Chapter 8 if she wants him to disappear, she says no. At this point, Karenin enters the drawing room and soon suggests they go home together, but Anna decides to stay for supper, and he leaves without her.

In Chapter 9, Karenin is disturbed by the "senseless" thought of his wife falling in love with another man. To be jealous is an insult to his wife, but he feels obligated to speak to her about improper behavior. When Anna gets home, past 1 a.m., he mentions her "too animated conversation" with Vronsky, which will give people grist for the gossip mill. Anna pretends innocence, and he apologizes if he is wrong. "I am your husband and I love you," he says, and asks her if she is harboring any inappropriate feelings. Anna denies having a secret, thinking Karenin does not know the meaning of the word "love." Karenin makes numerous attempts to get past Anna's new wall of silence. He cannot seem to strike the right note, however, continuing to use a mocking tone to talk about these serious matters.

Analysis

Anna half-heartedly rebukes Vronsky for misleading Kitty, but his defense is that he fell in love with her and could not help it. He plays a lover's game, saying he will bravely depart if she wishes it, and she responds in kind that "I do not want to drive you away." Anna is clearly already caught in Vronsky's net.

Meanwhile, Karenin has heard the gossip about Vronsky and Anna and sees evidence of the growing attachment with his own eyes. Karenin is a conventional man with little imagination, but he loves his wife enough to demean himself, as he sees it, and ask her to confide in him any illicit feelings she may have. Anna coldheartedly accuses him in her heart of not knowing what love is—perhaps because his declaration is too little too late, and as she drifts off to sleep she thinks, "It's late now, late, late."

Karenin is not passionate and seems unable to express his feelings, falling back on his "habitual tone," which he uses to hide from emotion. Thus, he has no chance of winning Anna back because he does not know how to access her emotional nature.

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