Levin’s half-brother, Sergei Koznyshev, takes a break from his intellectual work by visiting Levin at his country estate. Whereas Koznyshev sees the countryside as a place of leisure, Levin sees it as a place of hard labor. The brothers also have different attitudes toward the peasantry: Koznyshev is naïvely affectionate, whereas Levin has a close familiarity with the peasants that makes him occasionally critical. But if one were to ask Levin whether or not he loved the peasantry, he would be unable to answer.
On his walks with Levin in the country, Koznyshev waxes lyrical about the beauty of nature, while Levin prefers simply to look at his surroundings without comment. The men discuss the zemstvo board and the sad state of local affairs. Koznyshev wonders why nothing good comes from the money landowners pay to local bureaucrats, as there are no schools, doctors, or midwives to show for these payments. He chastises Levin for withdrawing from the zemstvo, where he might have exerted a positive impact. Levin asserts that such bureaucratic work was futile and frustrating for him. The next day, Levin works through his troubles by doing hard labor, mowing his fields alongside forty-two peasant men. The work exhilarates him, and he feels a higher force moving his scythe. Back home, Koznyshev hands Levin a letter from Dolly, in which she writes that she is at her nearby estate of Yergushovo.
Dolly has moved to the country to reduce household expenses, but she finds the hardships of rural life almost unbearable. Only with the help of the nanny, Matryona, is Dolly able to set up house decently. One day, Levin visits Dolly, who eagerly broaches the subject of Kitty. Levin reveals that he had proposed to Kitty and been refused. Contrary to Levin’s assumption, Dolly did not already know about his rejected proposal. Dolly affirms that Kitty is suffering even more than Levin. Dolly attempts to talk about the future of a relationship between Levin and Kitty, but Levin gets angry, saying that such possibilities are dead forever.
The next day, Levin inspects his hay reserves, finding that the peasants have been cheating him of a considerable portion of his income, although they all cheerfully deny his claim. Despite this annoyance, Levin feels that the countryside is where he belongs and that he is not destined to marry. But when he glimpses Kitty passing by him in a carriage one day, his love for her suddenly returns.
Karenin sticks to his routine doggedly after Anna’s revelation of her adultery, attempting to live as if nothing has changed. Inwardly, however, the pain he feels and represses leads him to curse Anna as a “depraved woman.” He also grows more distant and cold toward his son, Seryozha. Karenin recites to himself the long list of men whom women have ruined over the course of history, from ancient to modern times. He considers challenging Vronsky to a duel but rejects the idea out of fear of pistols. Karenin reasons that the best punishment for Anna is to keep her bound to him, unable to divorce. He writes a letter to her explaining this plan to her formally.
Anna is utterly surprised by Karenin’s decision, disappointed that the divorce for which she yearns will not come to pass. She is enraged at the prospect of prolonging her life of lies with Karenin. She writes a letter to him, telling him she is leaving the house and taking her son with her, but in the end she does not send the letter.