Dolly, unhappy with her own run-down estate, moves in with Levin and Kitty for the summer. Kitty’s friend Varenka and Levin’s half-brother, Sergei, are also present. Sergei is friendly despite the others’ awe of his fame. Dolly and Kitty even discuss the possibility of setting him up with Varenka. Levin is skeptical of this idea, explaining that Sergei is used to a spiritual life whereas Varenka is more earthy. Levin tells Kitty that he envies Sergei, who lives for duty and thus can reach satisfaction. Kitty asks why Levin is not satisfied himself. Levin mentions his work frustrations but affirms he is happy overall.
Sergei and Varenka do indeed like each other greatly, and Sergei fantasizes about proposing marriage. One day, the two go out picking mushrooms together, and both of them suddenly realize Sergei is on the verge of proposing. At the last minute, however, he is unable to bring himself to do so, as he wishes to be loyal to the memory of a deceased lover from his youth. The opportunity gone, Sergei and Varenka both realize they will never marry each other.
One day, Stiva arrives with a friend, the handsome Veslovsky. Stiva mentions that Veslovsky has visited Anna. Dolly asserts that she will visit Anna too, though Kitty is reluctant to go. Veslovsky flirts with Kitty, which makes Levin insanely jealous. Levin and Kitty quarrel and Levin apologizes, promising to make Veslovsky feel welcome on their hunting trip the next day.
Setting out with Stiva and Veslovsky, Levin is ashamed of his earlier anger, for he now finds Veslovsky comical and good-natured. But once they begin hunting, the presence of the somewhat hapless Veslovsky again bothers Levin, distracting him and causing him to shoot badly. The others bag far more game, and Levin’s irritation grows. Veslovsky stupidly sets his gun off accidentally and gets their cart stuck in a marsh.
The men discuss a railroad magnate neighbor whose fortune Levin disdains, considering it ill gotten, the product of financial tricks, not hard work. Stiva mocks Levin for being a nobleman who does not work for his fortune, and Levin is irked. Levin goes to bed frustrated, while the other two go off in pursuit of farm girls, which Stiva says is acceptable as long as his wife does not find out.
Waking early the next morning, Levin goes off hunting alone. His dog flushes out several enormous snipe, which Levin kills effortlessly. Delighted, Levin returns hours later with nineteen birds. His joy disperses, however, when he learns that Stiva and Veslovsky have eaten all the food. Kitty then discusses her need to go to Moscow to see an obstetrician. Levin initially resists, believing doctors to be unnecessary, but finally assents. Veslovsky engages Kitty in a conversation about whether love can be above social conventions, but she finds his tone objectionable. Kitty and Levin quarrel and make up once more. Finally, Levin, again annoyed at Veslovsky’s flirtation with Kitty, kicks him out of the house, despite his awareness that such an action is ungracious.