Vronsky brings his financial accounts into balance. Despite rumors of his huge fortune, he actually leads a hand-to-mouth existence. However, he adheres to a rule he imposed on himself long before and refuses to ask his mother for a loan. Vronsky obeys his rules of conduct rigorously, and it is only with the recent appearance of Anna in his life that he has felt conflicted about proper behavior.
Upon learning of Anna’s pregnancy, Vronsky feels that he should resign from military service. He is reluctant to give up his professional ambitions, however, especially because his old school friend—and friendly rival—Serpukhovskoy has recently found fame. Serpukhovskoy warns Vronsky to be wary of women, as they can hold a man back from his full career potential.
Vronsky sets off for Anna’s country house, where she has arranged a meeting with him. On the way, he feels he loves her more than ever, and his pulse quickens upon his first glimpse of her. Anna reveals to Vronsky that she has told her husband about their adulterous affair. Vronsky fears a duel, but after reading Karenin’s letter to Anna he does not know how to react. Vronsky thinks about Serpukhovskoy’s advice to him but knows he cannot tell Anna about it. He advises Anna to abandon Seryozha, her son with Karenin, and put an end to the humiliating situation by obtaining a divorce. Anna bursts out sobbing, saying that she is not humiliated but proud.
Karenin delivers a speech before the commission on the relocation of the Russian native tribes, and it is a brilliant success. Anna goes to her home in St. Petersburg to talk with her husband. She reaffirms to him that she is the one at fault but says that she cannot change anything. Karenin, exclusively concerned about defending his honor, makes only one demand—that Vronsky never set foot in his home. Anna and Karenin part.
Meanwhile, Levin has come to loathe the farm work he once enjoyed. He feels worn down from his unending struggle with the peasants over their reluctance to adopt new technological innovations for farming. More tormenting is the nearby presence of Kitty at Yergushovo; Levin yearns to see her but feels he cannot. Dolly tries to lure Levin to visit—and encounter Kitty—by requesting to borrow a saddle from him. Levin merely sends the saddle by courier, without visiting Dolly’s house personally.
The torture of being near Kitty but not with her eventually becomes unbearable, so Levin takes off to visit his friend Sviyazhsky, who lives far away. On the way, Levin stops to eat at the home of a prosperous peasant. The peasant and his healthy family impress Levin, as does the farmer’s obvious financial success. The old farmer asserts that landowners cannot rely on hired men, for peasants handle a farm best on their own.