Literature Study GuidesAnna KareninaPart 4 Chapters 11 15 Summary

Anna Karenina | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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Anna Karenina | Part 4, Chapters 11–15 | Summary

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Summary

Kitty and Levin begin conversing apart from the general conversation in Chapter 11, and he tells her how he saw her in her carriage when she came to the country. After dinner in Chapter 12, when the men continue talking alone, Pestov returns to women's rights and the "inequality of spouses," in which unfaithfulness is punished "unequally by the law and public opinion." Suddenly Turovtsyn, a friend of the Oblonskys, mentions a man who challenged his wife's lover to a duel and killed him. At that point, Karenin leaves to join the ladies in the drawing room. Dolly takes the opportunity to speak privately with him and is shocked to learn Anna told Karenin directly about her affair. Dolly then appeals to his Christianity, begging him not to "ruin" Anna, but he says he already gave her a chance to reform.

Meanwhile, in Chapter 13 Kitty and Levin are sitting together at a card table covered with a green cloth, and Levin begins a game with her, in which he writes in chalk on the cloth, giving her only the first letters of each word. He asks about her first refusal, and she asks him to forgive and forget. Levin then declares his love and is accepted. Kitty's suitor leaves on a cloud in Chapter 14 and asks his brother if he can attend his political meeting with him. In his ecstatic state of love, however, Levin understands nothing of the proceedings. The next day in Chapter 15, he goes to the Shcherbatskys, and Kitty's parents give their blessing to the union.

Analysis

These chapters raise the issue of different treatment and consequences of adultery for men and women. No doubt the reader is meant to sympathize with Anna's plight, but that does not mean that Tolstoy condones adultery in either a man or a woman. The hypocrisy in treating adultery differently, depending on whether the offender was a man or woman or whether they had money and status, is something to which the author deliberately calls attention. Tolstoy employs situational irony in allowing the conservative Karenin to act with remarkable liberalism and tolerance with regard to Anna's indiscretions. Anna is not hypocritical like Stiva and wants to go public with the affair and find some way to be with the man she loves, but her expectations are not realistic, given the prevailing mores of her culture.

At the same time, these chapters juxtapose Anna's pain with Kitty's joy. Anna and Vronsky are deeply involved in a physical and scandalous relationship that has more to do with passion than love, while Kitty and Levin barely speak to one another, choosing to hint at their feelings instead.

Karenin expresses his hatred of Anna when he speaks to Dolly. "I consider it unjust. I did everything for that woman, and she trampled everything in the mud that is so suitable to her. I am not a wicked man ... but her I hate with all the strength of my soul." Karenin's feelings are much more complex, as later chapters will show, but at this juncture he is consumed by his rage over Anna's escalating betrayals. In another room not far away, Levin is making the opposite declaration—one of love and commitment. He and Kitty feel mutual love and affection, but not the consuming sexual passion that fuels Anna and Vronsky's attachment. Tolstoy thought that relationships that were based primarily in sexual attraction were doomed to fail.

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