Yura decides to study medicine; in his spare time he writes poetry. His uncle Kolya is now living in Lausanne, Switzerland. One day, Yura comes home late from the university and hears that Anna Gromeko, who has been ill with a pulmonary inflammation, has sent for him. He tells her not to fear death, and her condition improves the next day. Later, she tells him he should marry her daughter Tonya.
Lara decisively writes to her friend Nadya Kologrigova that she wants to move away from her mother and Komarovsky and work as a teacher, and Nadya invites her to become governess to her little sister Lipa. After three years Lara's brother Rodya comes to her saying that he has gambled away money meant for a farewell gift to the head of the Academy, and he needs seven hundred rubles to pay it back; he asks her to go to Komarovsky for it. Instead she gets the money from Kologrigov, her employer. She does not have to pay it back because she is regarded as a member of the family, but she would have secretly done so if not for the expenses she incurs by giving money to Pasha Antipov's parents. She and Pasha are in love and want to marry. When Lipa graduates and leaves home, Lara is invited to stay on at the house but she decides to start anew with money from Komarovsky. She goes to his home with a loaded revolver, planning to shoot him if he refuses. She is told that he is at a Christmas party. She stops at Pasha's house and tells him that they must marry immediately but will not tell him what is worrying her.
Yura and Tonya arrive late to the Sventitskys' Christmas party. Lara hides in the ballroom watching Komarovsky. She dances with an elegant young man named Koka, but then she realizes that his father is the man who made a fanatical speech while prosecuting a group of railway strikers, including Tiverzin. At around two in the morning, Yura and the other guests hear a shot ring out. Chaos ensues, and Kornakov, Koka's father, emerges saying he has been attacked but is uninjured. Yura looks at the woman (Lara) who did the shooting and realizes that he is looking at the same girl that he saw years ago. He receives a message from home, commanding him to come at once. When he and Tonya arrive, Anna is already dead. She is buried in the same churchyard as Yura's mother.
Lara is shown to be an impetuous, confused young woman--in contrast to the calm, contemplative Yura. At the same time, Yura is intrigued by Lara, having met her on two extraordinary occasions.
Lara is possessed by the desire for revenge against Komarovsky, but she attacks Kornakov in his place. Like many people trapped in abusive, exploitative relationships, she is unable to separate her feelings of anger from her feelings of affection, and possibly she is too emotionally tied to Komarovsky to injure him. Her anxiety shows in her discomfort with the lifestyle she enjoys with the Kologrigovs; she thinks of going back to Komarovsky in order to be independent, although she knows that the end result will be complete dependence on the man who made her feel ashamed in her teenage years.
When Anna dies, Yura is able to examine his character through his reaction to her death. He is also able to view the distance he has traversed since his mother's demise when he was a child; he sees that now his feelings are tempered by his scientific understanding of the world. Now he fears nothing, and he believes that he understands all.