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Literature Study GuidesAnna KareninaPart 5 Chapters 11 15 Summary

Anna Karenina | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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Anna Karenina | Part 5, Chapters 11–15 | Summary



In Chapter 11, Mikhailov feels excited to show the visitors his work, especially a new religious painting of Jesus before Pilate, of which he is particularly proud. His guests compliment him, but Golenishchev criticizes his interpretation of Christ. This upsets the painter in Chapter 12, and Anna and Vronsky attempt to change the subject. Mikhailov later agrees in Chapter 13 to paint a portrait of Anna. As the painting progresses, it becomes apparent that the artist perceives Anna's "special beauty." Vronsky also has tried to paint Anna, but his work pales next to Mikhailov's; nevertheless, he cannot see that he is a much inferior painter. Eventually, Vronsky gets bored with painting, and he and Anna decide to return to Russia. He plans to finally divide the family property with his brother, and Anna will see her son.

Back in Russia in Chapter 14, Levin is adjusting to married life. Although quite happy, Levin is surprised that there are difficulties and occasional quarrels. He is also surprised that Kitty throws herself into housekeeping. Work for Levin is still important, but it is no longer his "center of gravity" in Chapter 15. He has begun to write his book, and Kitty distracts him while he is writing, initially delighting him, but then annoying him. Levin is also bothered that Kitty seems to have no "serious interests," but then excuses her by thinking she is preparing for the momentous tasks of becoming mistress of the house and mother of her children.


Painting is Mikhailov's vocation, and he is somewhat disgusted with the ignorance of his guests. He needs to work, however, and of course agrees to paint Anna's picture. Vronsky is an amateur and does not recognize the difference between the artistry of Mikhailov and his own mediocre work. He brings his attitude of aristocratic privilege to the study of painting and finds it hard to admit he just does not cut it as a painter. Eventually, he gives up this new hobby and decides to return to Russia and real life—and a more meaningful occupation.

The need for work is highlighted in these chapters, showing that although love and marriage are significant aspects of human life, they are not the end-all of human existence. As Gayle Greene (1977) points out, Tolstoy demonstrates that this is true for women as well as men, but falls short of following this idea to its logical conclusion that women should be able to work outside the home. Levin loves Kitty and is delighted to be married, but he also needs to work, and suddenly married life is taking him away from his farming and writing. Eventually, Kitty will settle into her life as a farmer's wife, but initially she also has little to do. In the city, she has other entertainments (like skating) as well as family members, but in the country, she has only Levin. Like Anna's dependence on Vronsky, she is too dependent on Levin for her entertainment.

Her husband is surprised to find she has a narrow range of interests. Clearly, she is not his intellectual equal, and she is also younger than he and much less educated. Surprisingly, Levin did not consider any of that before he married, probably because he believes a woman's sole reason for being is to produce children and raise a family. Of course, Kitty is concerned about setting up and running the house, because she has nothing else to do. Once she begins having children, she will be much more occupied, Levin thinks. He will soon learn how her dignity and resourcefulness bear fruit outside her own household.

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