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Literature Study GuidesAnna KareninaPart 7 Chapters 16 20 Summary

Anna Karenina | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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Anna Karenina | Part 7, Chapters 16–20 | Summary



In Chapter 16, Levin is in a state of awe following the birth of his son. When he sees tiny Dmitri, he is surprised to feel squeamish, and "[t]he fear lest this helpless being should suffer was so strong ... he scarcely noticed the strange feeling of senseless joy and even pride he experienced when the baby sneezed."

Chapter 17 shifts to Stiva who, because of his money troubles, is applying for "a cushy bribery post" for which he would not have to leave his current job. He goes to Petersburg to work his connections and also to speak to Karenin about Anna's divorce. In Chapter 18, Karenin says he thought Anna had "renounced divorce" to keep her connection with Seryozha. Stiva responds that earlier she felt too guilty to avail herself of her husband's mercy, but now she is tormented. Anna no longer expects to have her son, and Stiva leans heavily on Karenin to keep his earlier promise. Karenin says he cannot "act contrary to Christian law" and tells Stiva he will "look for guidance" and give him an answer in two days. Stiva asks to see his nephew in Chapter 19. Seryozha, who has not seen his mother in a year, has worked hard to forget her, and when his uncle asks him, "Do you remember your mother?" he says "No, I don't." After Stiva leaves Karenin, he visits Betsy and learns in Chapter 20 that Karenin and Countess Lydia have taken up with a clairvoyant named Landau, in whose hands Anna's fate rests.


Levin experiences his new baby as an alien and at the same time immediately feels a strong, protective urge for the tiny, helpless creature. He is surprised at how proud he is to hear the boy sneeze because it is such a little thing. Yet it is a sign that he is in the world and a reminder that Dmitri belongs to him.

Stiva has gotten into such deep financial trouble that he now needs a second job to cover his expenses and debt. Of course, being the lazy man that he is, he is applying for a job in which the government will essentially give him money for doing nothing. This sinecure is made available by a corrupt government, and Stiva knows enough people to give him a good chance to get it. He is now hoping to persuade Karenin to finally give Anna a divorce. He alludes to Karenin's original promise, which is that Karenin would take the blame for the adultery, but he also tells him he can keep Seryozha. Thus, it is hard to know what Stiva is actually asking for. Karenin's taking the blame for adultery seems unlikely at this point, and he may not be able to given that Anna is living with her lover. Also uncertain is how much of a pariah she would continue to be as a divorced mistress if she were not able to marry Vronsky. Certainly, Vronsky would be able to adopt his child by petitioning the tsar.

The falseness of Karenin's position as well as his pride in his perceived social status have seeped into the child's life as well. Certainly a boy of 11 or 12 would remember the mother with whom he lived for the first nine years of his life. Still, he claims not to remember her.

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