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Literature Study GuidesAnna KareninaPart 7 Chapters 21 25 Summary

Anna Karenina | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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Anna Karenina | Part 7, Chapters 21–25 | Summary



In Chapter 21, Stiva accepts Karenin's invitation to Countess Lydia's that same evening. When he gets there, he finds Karenin and Landau. Lydia begins to spout quasi-mystical and religious mumbo-jumbo. She tells Stiva, "There is no sin for believers, since they are already redeemed." Karenin seconds her pronouncements and offers some of his own. In Chapter 22, Stiva begins to fall asleep listening to Lydia, and when he shakes himself he sees that Lydia and Karenin are delighted because Landau has fallen asleep, too. The French clairvoyant begins speaking in his sleep and says Stiva should get out. The next day he gets a letter from Karenin, refusing to grant Anna a divorce.

In Chapter 23, it is clear that Vronsky and Anna have remained too long in Moscow and are not getting along. Anna's jealousy is increasing, especially because she learned Vronsky's mother wants him to marry Princess Sorokin. She is angry about her isolation and also misses her son, and takes it out on Vronsky. In an argument about women's education, Vronsky says her interest in her English ward Hannah is "unnatural," and Anna takes this as an oblique reference to her indifference toward Annie. Later in Chapter 24, she decides they should go back to the country, and Vronsky readily agrees. She wants to leave the next day, but he has some business with his mother and needs to wait an additional day. Anna begins arguing again and telling him he does not care about her. It crosses her mind that dying now would solve her problems. She accuses Vronsky of loving another woman, and he says he loves her "more than ever" and there is no reason for her jealousy. Thus, they temporarily reconcile.

In Chapter 25, Anna begins packing to leave. A telegram from Stiva, saying there is no news about the divorce, triggers another argument. They are soon quarreling again, and she believes she sees "cold hatred" in Vronsky's eyes. She begins berating his mother, and when he asks her to stop, she says he does not love his mother anyway. Yashvin comes in and interrupts the quarrel, and Vronsky leaves with him on the business of selling his horse.


In his spiritual confusion, Karenin now takes direction from a fake prophet who calls himself Landau. His descent into such an intellectual and spiritual morass is shocking for the reader, appearing to be a mere shadow of the man he was at the beginning of the novel: confident, capable, intelligent, responsible, and respectable. In fact, he has not changed much. He has always followed society's dictates. Now he is simply further removed from respectable society and is following social "norms" that are far less normal.

Meanwhile, Anna's jealousy has reached pathological levels. Vronsky himself told her about his mother's idea for him to marry Princess Sorokin, so he hardly has plans to pursue her as a love interest. All indications are that he loves and cares for Anna, but he is worn down by her fear, insecurity, and periodic rages. Anna deliberately provokes Vronsky, and is often unreasonable. There is no reason she cannot wait another day to leave Moscow, but she insists on it as a point of pride. Moreover, she does not need to insult his mother when he has asked her not to speak about her disrespectfully.

She reads into all of his remarks meanings that are only in her head, and projects onto Vronsky her own self-hatred. She despises herself for abandoning her son and because she has become a woman who is dependent and craven. Some of her behavior can be attributed to drug addiction. She has been taking opiates on a regular basis for a year or more, and is probably dosing herself now every day. This class of drug can trigger paranoia in some people. Anna does seem to be experiencing paranoia—for example, she thinks she sees "cold hatred" in Vronsky's eyes, that he does not love her, and that he is conspiring to betray her.

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