Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews December 8, 2023
December 1, 2023
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at email@example.com. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
See discount terms and conditions.
En route to Anna’s house, Dolly encounters Anna, Veslovsky,
Princess Oblonskaya, and Levin’s friend Sviyazhsky on horseback. Dolly
is startled by Anna’s boldness in riding horseback, which society
considers improper for ladies. Dolly dislikes Princess Oblonskaya,
who sponges off of her rich relatives. Dolly knows that she looks
older than Anna. Anna speaks of her great, “unforgivable” happiness:
having survived past fears and torments, she says she only wants
to live. She talks about Vronsky’s estate management and the first-class
hospital he is building for the local peasant community.
Dolly stays in a room that Anna calls inferior but that
is in fact very luxurious. Dolly feels very self-conscious about
her shabby clothes. Anna presents her baby daughter, who is illegitimate
but technically a Karenin. Dolly is troubled by the child’s disagreeable governess
and by Anna’s ignorance of nursery matters. Indeed, Anna even admits
she feels superfluous in the infant’s upbringing. Overall, Anna’s
life pleases Dolly, who envies Anna’s freedom and love. In private,
Vronsky implores Dolly to persuade Anna to get a divorce—which Karenin
had agreed to earlier—so that Vronsky and Anna might petition the
emperor for a legal adoption of their daughter. Dolly promises to
speak to Anna later.
Over a costly dinner, the group discusses such topics
as American efficiency in building, government abuses, and the zemstvo system. When
someone mentions that Levin has retired from zemstvo activity,
Vronsky asserts that it is important for a nobleman to fulfill his duties,
as he does in serving as justice of the peace. Dolly, annoyed by
Vronsky’s slighting of Levin, affirms Levin’s responsible character.
Anna remarks that Vronsky’s official duties are distancing him from
Playing croquet afterward, Dolly dislikes Veslovsky’s
flirtations with Anna. Later, Anna inquires about Levin, wanting
the best for Kitty. Dolly mentions Anna’s possible divorce for the
sake of future children. Anna announces that because of her illness
she can have no more children, saying she thinks it is for the best.
Dolly wonders how Anna will hold on to Vronsky when her beauty inevitably fades.
Anna says she cannot humiliate herself by writing to Karenin for
a divorce. Dolly suddenly reflects on her own family life with warmth,
noting that Anna takes medicine to fall asleep. Rather than stay
several days as planned, Dolly decides to return home the next day.
When Vronsky announces he must travel to Kashin province
for some important local elections, Anna receives the news with
a strange calm. Levin, now living in Moscow because of Kitty’s pregnancy,
also goes to the elections. He is frustrated by the bureaucratic proceedings,
but Sergei explains to him the importance of the elections, in which
the old-guard marshal of nobility will be replaced by a younger
man more supportive of the zemstvo system. When
the vote is cast, the younger party wins. Levin runs into the landowner he
met during his visit to Sviyazhsky’s house and has a conversation with
him. The landowner says that the elections have little significance
and reports that he is still farming at a net loss; in fact, he
is pessimistic about the state of Russian landowners in general.
Levin tells Sviyazhsky, who is also present at the elections, that
the local court is an idiotic institution.
Soon, Levin grows dejected and yearns to flee the elections.
Ultimately, a venomous nobleman named Nevedovsky is elected marshal
of the nobility. Vronsky hosts a party for the victor but receives a
worried note from Anna telling him to return home immediately, as
their infant daughter is ill. At home, Anna fumes over her utter lack
of freedom, her inability to travel on a whim as Vronsky can. Vronsky
returns and asks why Anna is irritable, once again affirming his
love for her. Anna says she refuses to be separated from Vronsky
again. She agrees to write Karenin for a divorce, which they expect
him to permit.
In this section, Tolstoy uses the dinner party discussion
of local politics to explore the notion of social commitment. Vronsky
comes across as high-minded in his eloquent assertion that Russian
nobles must serve their governmental duties, affirming a vital political
and social role for the aristocracy. But his praise of social duty
may be hollow, an idea put forth for show but lacking substance—just
like Vronsky’s state-of-the-art hospital, which seems to have been
constructed more with the aim of being an architectural wonder than
a practical facility. Vronsky may feel lofty social sentiments,
but we trust Levin more, understanding his complaints that the local
courts are bureaucratic and inefficient. Levin has had more hands-on
political experience than Vronsky, having served on a zemstvo, so
we give his cynicism about Russian local politics more weight. Moreover,
the local elections at Kashin make us feel the futility of local social
institutions even more sharply. Despite all the fanfare, most local
landowners appear to agree that the vote is meaningless. All the
bluster and attention leads to nothing of importance. As Vronsky
figures large in the elections, we may associate this empty bluster with
Tolstoy’s brand of feminism, in the sense of attention
to the political and social oppression of the women of his era,
is strongly evident in these chapters, beginning with the unforgettable
portrait of Dolly meeting the happy Anna on horseback. At the time,
as the narrator hints, it was almost scandalous for a grown woman
to ride on horseback. Tolstoy thus purposely portrays Anna in a
radically unconventional pose. The symbolic contrast with Dolly
is noticeable. We note that Dolly’s journey to Anna’s house is enabled entirely
by men: Dolly is transported by a male driver, on horses borrowed
from another man, Levin. Anna, on the other hand, is in control
of her own movement, guiding the horse directly. When Dolly compares
herself to Anna immediately upon meeting her, noting the differences
in the aging of their faces, we feel that Dolly is already envious
of Anna’s independence and its benefits. Yet Tolstoy reminds us
that Anna’s independence is far from complete, noting how she fumes
over the fact that Vronsky enjoys far greater rights than she. Vronsky
can travel at will, while she is stuck at home. Symbolically, Anna
is on the road to women’s emancipation but has not yet arrived.
Tolstoy’s treatment of motherhood here may indicate the
limitations of his feminist sympathies. As Anna pursues her freedom,
Tolstoy deprives her of a maternal role—not only does she lose custody of
Seryozha and feel ambivalence toward her baby girl, but her illness
also leaves her unable to have any more children. Some readers feel
that Tolstoy demonstrates an old-fashioned sexism in insisting that
an independent woman automatically becomes both infertile and a
bad mother. But we should not necessarily label Tolstoy a misogynist.
The sexist ideas that appear here—such as Dolly’s idea that Anna
will be unable to keep Vronsky after her beauty fades, which equates
a woman’s desirability only with her physical appearance—are not
necessarily Tolstoy’s. The author may circulate ideas that provoke
dissent and reflection in the reader without agreeing with them
himself. In any case, we must exercise caution in assessing Tolstoy’s
views toward women.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Anna Karenina!