Anna Karenina Part 1, Chapter 20 Summary
by Leo Tolstoy

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Part 1, Chapter 20 Summary

During her first day in Moscow, Anna Karenina receives no visitors, though several of her friends call on her; instead she spends the day with Darya Alexandrovna and her children. At dinner, the entire family gathers, and she calls her husband “Stiva” as she once used to do. Right after dinner Kitty arrives, feeling some trepidation about meeting such a fashionable St. Petersburg woman about whom everyone speaks so highly. In no time at all, however, Anna Karenina wins Kitty over by her charm and youthful eagerness more befitting a woman of twenty than a mother of an eight-year-old. In fact, Kitty adores her, feeling as if there is much to be learned from such a woman.

After dinner Darya Alexandrovna retires to her room and Anna Karenina urges her brother to make haste to follow his wife, which he does. Once their parents have left the room, the children swarm around their cherished aunt and fight for the closest spot to be near her. Kitty talks about the upcoming ball, a splendid affair where the guests always enjoy themselves. Anna Karenina is surprised, for in her world there are only some balls that are less “dull and tiresome” than others.

The children are finally called away and the two women continue talking about the ball. It is likely that Anna Karenina will be attending, and Kitty is thrilled at the prospect—and the older woman guesses why, suggesting Kitty has some great expectation of this ball and wants everyone to be there to be part of the grand thing. Kitty admits she is right.

Ann Karenina remembers the blissful time when youth is blossoming into adulthood and the path to the future is narrowing. It is a time both delightful and alarming, and Kitty thinks she would love to hear this woman’s love story. Anna Karenina then congratulates Kitty on the prospect of marrying Vronsky, as her brother suggested to her earlier in the day, and says she spent the journey from St. Petersburg with his mother.

Kitty asks what Vronskaya said, and Anna Karenina tells her that she described her son in the most complimentary way, even citing a heroic act he performed as a child. What she does not tell the girl is that Vronsky gave a widow some money, for somehow she knows it has a connection to her and it is something which should not have happened. The old woman invited Anna Karenina to call on her, and she plans to go visit her tomorrow. Just then the children come rushing back in and their aunt greets them with great enthusiasm and love.