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Anna Karenina | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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Anna Karenina | Part 4, Chapters 6–10 | Summary

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Summary

In Chapter 6, Karenin travels to the provinces on business, and when he stops in Moscow to see the governor general, he runs into Stiva and Dolly, who invite him to dinner. The next day, in Chapter 7, Stiva runs several errands. First, he visits his latest girlfriend, a ballet dancer to whom he gives a coral necklace. Next, he shops for dinner. Then he visits Levin at his hotel, who has recently gotten back from visiting some manufacturing towns in Europe to study the workers. Stiva teases Levin for his preoccupation with death, and they talk at length. Finally, he invites Levin to dinner, although he does not mention Kitty will be there.

In Chapter 8, Stiva then visits Karenin, who has just written a letter to the lawyer, giving him permission to do what was necessary to obtain the divorce. Karenin says he cannot come to dinner and explains why. Stiva begs him to come and at least talk to Dolly before doing anything, and he reluctantly agrees.

The dinner takes place in Chapter 9, and several people are there, including Koznyshev, Levin's half-brother, and his intellectual friend Pestov. When Stiva introduces Levin to Karenin, he also notices Kitty, who is clearly both embarrassed and happy to see him. Levin is uncharacteristically talkative and charming because he knows Kitty is listening. Over dinner, the guests discuss politics, education, and women's rights, with Koznyshev and Pestov holding the most liberal views. "Obligations are coupled with rights. Power, money, honours—that's what women are seeking," Pestov says in Chapter 10, and the old prince makes a joke about seeking the right to be a wet nurse.

Analysis

Stiva does not want Karenin to divorce his sister, and is hoping that Dolly can somehow talk him out of it. He believes in his wife's goodness and compassion and hopes she can do for Karenin what Anna did for Dolly at the beginning of the novel. But the differences between the two are stark. Stiva has affairs because he is an irresponsible man who lives only for his own pleasure. Anna's affair is tearing her life apart, but nothing can convince her to stop. The difference is obviously due, in part, to their sex.

Women's rights were a pressing issue in the 1870s, and the old prince and Pestov openly discuss the question. Tolstoy the artist allows Koznyshev and Pestov to present the reasonable view that women are human beings, and like men, they need meaningful work. The prince immediately refutes that view, arguing that the only job they need is nurturing their families and bearing children. Although the author so clearly and sympathetically portrays the oppression of women, he repeatedly demonstrates women such as Dolly and Anna finding their greatest, and often only, joy in their children.

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