HomeLiterature Study GuidesAnna KareninaPart 7 Chapters 2631 Summary

Anna Karenina | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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Anna Karenina | Part 7, Chapters 26–31 | Summary

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Summary

After Vronsky leaves in Chapter 26, Anna convinces herself he hates her and loves another woman. Vronsky is gone the whole day, and she thinks that her death will be a way to get his love back and to vanquish him "in the struggle that the evil spirit lodged in her heart was waging with him." When Vronsky comes back, he sleeps in the study, and Anna returns to her room and takes a second dose of opium. Toward morning, she again dreams of the disheveled peasant and awakens in a cold sweat. In the morning, she tells Vronsky she is not leaving with him. "This is becoming unbearable," he says, and she tells him he will regret it. In Chapter 27, she immediately regrets her words after he leaves and writes him a note of apology, asking him to come home. The effects of the opium have not worn off, and Anna's thoughts are confused. The messenger comes back to say he has missed Vronsky at the stables, so she asks him to deliver the message to his mother's house and also sends a telegram saying she must talk to him at once. Anna then sets off for Dolly's house in Chapter 28. In the next chapters, the narrator provides passages of Anna's stream-of-consciousness, which contain bitter and confused thoughts.

Kitty is at Dolly's when Anna arrives, and reluctantly comes out to meet her. Anna maliciously brings up Levin's visit to embarrass Kitty and then takes her leave of the sisters. Once in the carriage in Chapter 29, she feels that Kitty has insulted her and imagines both women wish her ill. When she gets home, there is a note from Vronsky saying he cannot come back before 10 p.m. She's now determined to meet Vronsky at his mother's house, not realizing he has not received the first note. She intends to take the evening train at eight. In Chapter 30, brooding in the carriage, Anna ascribes the worst motives to Vronsky, thinking he pursued her to satisfy his vanity. "The zest is gone" in their relationship, she tells herself. A divorce and marriage to Vronsky will not appreciably change her social situation, she thinks. She also feels disgust with herself for exchanging her love for Seryozha for Vronsky's love, and cynically tells herself that people are born "to hate each other." When she gets to the train station, at first she cannot remember why she is there, but then buys a ticket.

In Chapter 31, now on the train but still brooding, she sees a dirty peasant through the window, remembers her dream, and becomes terrified. Anna continues to have dark thoughts. "I'm unable to think up a situation in which life would not be suffering ... But if you see the truth, what can you do?" It then occurs to her that she can "put out the candle." At the next stop she gets off, looking for her coachman, who brings her another note from Vronsky saying he's sorry to have missed the first note. She sees a goods train passing on the other side of the platform and remembers the man who died under the wheels of the train on the day she met Vronsky. She walks downstairs and climbs down from the platform and puts herself beneath the wheels of that passing train. At the last moment, she wants to take her action back, but it is too late. As Anna dies, "[a] little muzhik, muttering to himself, was working over some iron. And the candle ... flared up brighter than ever, lit up for her all that had once been in darkness, sputtered, grew dim, and went out for ever."

Analysis

These chapter contain the climax of the novel—Anna's suicide. Tolstoy skillfully draws a portrait of a woman in the throes of a mental breakdown. Under the influence of opiates, Anna's paranoia becomes stronger and stronger. After she argues with Vronsky and sends him a note of apology, she is not thinking clearly enough to realize he has not ignored her first note—he simply has not received it. After she cannot immediately reconcile with Vronsky, her mental state becomes more and more unbearable to her. To distract herself, she goes to Dolly's house, and when she sees Kitty there, she unnecessarily and spitefully tries to make her feel jealous.

Her immediate need for reassurance from Vronsky forces her to drive to the train station with the idea of taking the train to his mother's house—not far from Moscow—and meeting him there. As before, the train symbolizes a shifting state, the start of a new life for Anna. As before, a peasant plays a pivotal role in the experience. And as before, a violent death figures prominently.

As she rides around all day, her thoughts become darker and darker. Much of what she thinks has truth in it—for example, she thinks that Vronsky pursued her for his vanity. Certainly that is true, but it is also true that he loves her and has committed himself to her. She also feels despair as she thinks a divorce will not make much of a difference in her social standing. Moreover, she now feels the full force of her self-hatred for leaving her son for the sake of being with Vronsky. Anna sees no way out of her dilemma and no way to ease the crushing emotional pain she is suffering. She also wants to punish Vronsky, and what better way to triumph over him finally and irrevocably than by killing herself and leaving behind the wreckage for him to clean up? And that is what she does.

That day, she has dreamed of the peasant again, and shortly before she dies she sees the image of the peasant in the flesh of a real person, which terrifies her. At the moment of her death, a peasant appears again, working his iron. The peasant is an omen, and the chaos that he represents has come to claim her at last.

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