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 4, 2023
November 27, 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.
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.
At Sviyazhsky’s house, Levin’s host seems intent on arranging
a marriage between Levin and his sister-in-law. Levin does his best
to avoid talking to the sister-in-law, knowing in his heart that
he can marry only Kitty or no one at all.
At dinner, Sviyazhsky entertains two old-fashioned landowners who
miss the bygone days of serfdom in Russia. One of the landowners
claims that farming was better in those days, and that the emancipation
of the serfs has ruined Russia. Levin meditates on the fact that,
in virtually all aspects of Sviyazhsky’s life, there are huge contradictions
between what Sviyazhsky inwardly believes and what he outwardly
Sviyazhsky argues that all farming should be done under
a rational, scientific system, whereas one of the landowner guests
asserts that farming simply requires a firm authority looming over
the peasantry. Levin agrees that his attempts to introduce farming
innovations to the peasants have been disastrous. Sviyazhsky maintains that
serfdom is a thing of the past and that hired labor is the future that
all Russian landowners must accept. He asserts that education is
the key to winning over the peasants, but Levin disagrees. Thinking
about the matter afterward, Levin believes the answer is to treat the
peasants not as an abstract workforce but as specifically Russian peasants
whose specific traditions and nature must be factored into all decisions
involving labor. Levin is determined to put his new theory into
practice on his estate, making the peasants financial partners in
the harvest. The peasants resist, however, suspecting Levin of somehow
trying to cheat them.
As Levin makes plans to visit farms in western Europe
to research his new agricultural theory, his brother Nikolai visits.
Nikolai, who is even sicker than before, has abandoned Marya Nikolaevna.
Since only one room in the house is heated, Levin allows Nikolai
to sleep in his own bedroom. Nikolai’s incessant coughing and cursing
keep Levin awake all hours of the night. With his brother obviously dying,
Levin can think of nothing but death. He gets up to examine his
graying temples, affirming that he has a few good years left in
his life. He goes back to bed wondering whether there is anything
he can do to help his brother.
The next day, conversation between the brothers is strained,
as the despairing and self-pitying Nikolai purposely irritates Levin
by mocking his ideas about agricultural improvement. Nikolai leaves but
at the last minute asks for Levin’s forgiveness. Levin later meets a
friend, to whom he speaks about death. Levin is aware that he must
live out his life to the end, come what may.
In this portion of the novel, Tolstoy shows us some of
the unexpected and seemingly contradictory aspects of Vronsky’s
character. Though Vronsky’s methodical accounting practices appear
to be at odds with his devil-may-care image, we see that they are
as integral to his character as his wild horse-racing style. Vronsky
divides all the bills he receives into three distinct categories,
ranked in order of urgency of payment, and he never deviates from
this system. He likewise has strict moral regulations for himself:
he may lie to a woman but never to a man, and so on. On the whole,
Tolstoy suggests that Vronsky is perhaps as much of a stickler for
rational systems as the other Alexei, Anna’s analytical husband.
Karenin applies his methods to public policy, whereas Vronsky applies
his to his finances. Regardless, it is clear that both men value
intellectual systems over intuition, instinct, or whim. Tolstoy
thus thwarts our expectation of a stark contrast between a cold,
rational Karenin and a stormy, passionate Vronsky. The two are certainly
different but not absolute opposites. Anna, who has little interest
in applying systems of thought to her personal life, may be less
similar to either of them than they are to each other. Indeed, she
never once appeals to any rule or process of deduction to determine
her actions. In her ruling instincts Anna resembles Levin more than
her husband or her lover.
Vronsky’s conversation with Anna at the country house
is the first hint at a decline in the intimacy of their relations.
For the first time in the novel we are aware of Vronsky having a
thought that he fails to share with Anna—his memory of Serpukhovskoy’s
warning about the dangerous effects of women on men’s ambition.
Tolstoy heightens the drama of this moment at the country house
by showing us Vronsky’s thought and then telling us of his inability
to communicate it to Anna. Serpukhovskoy’s advice itself is not
necessarily valid, for Anna has proved herself a capable wife to
the extremely ambitious Karenin. What is more important is that
the advice cannot be shared, which signals the formation of a boundary
between Vronsky’s mind and Anna’s. As the novel progresses, this
boundary becomes increasingly insurmountable and foreshadows the
end of their union. Another hint of a bleak future comes in Vronsky’s
reference to Anna’s “humiliation,” a very public form of shame.
Anna rightly rejects this term, saying she does not feel humiliation.
She is aware only of love, a private emotion. Vronsky’s focus on
humiliation suggests that he feels beholden to the pressure of social
values—a pressure that represents a clear danger to their love.
Just as Vronsky’s rationality comes as a surprise, so
do Levin’s thoughts of mortality and of his own death. Though Levin
is a healthy and vigorous man ablaze with future plans, Tolstoy
has him meditate on death for several reasons. First, Levin’s thoughts
reveal his deep empathy with his critically ill brother. Like Anna,
Levin is unable to distance himself from the suffering of anyone
close to him. Second, Levin’s reflections on mortality endow him
with a wise humility that other characters, such as Karenin and
even Vronsky, lack. Levin is no frailer than they, yet some vainglorious
quality about those other men makes it hard to imagine either of
them contemplating his own demise. Even Vronsky, who has come near
death in the horse race, has not let the experience noticeably alter
his views. Levin is different: his closeness to his ailing brother
causes him to realize and accept his human nature and limited life
span. Finally, Levin’s thoughts of death align him with Anna, who
thinks about death the first moment we meet her, after the casualty
in the train station. Levin and Anna are linked not only in the
intensity of their lives but also in their recognition of the closeness
Ace your assignments with our guide to Anna Karenina!