Anna Karenina Part 1, Chapter 22 Summary

Leo Tolstoy

Part 1, Chapter 22 Summary

Kitty and her mother arrive just as the ball is beginning, and the young girl is a stunningly beautiful tonight. She is elaborately coiffured and dressed, though it appears none of her preparations cost her any time or preparation, that it was all done with ease. It is one of Kitty’s best days, and she feels as if everything must be nice and graceful and in place. Everything from her hair to her slippers is perfect in her eyes on this most important night. Both outside and in, she is scintillating.

She is swept into her first dance, a waltz, with one of the most important men at the ball and he flatters her—as he does every partner with whom he dances—that she is exquisite precision on the dance floor. Kitty smiles at the praise and scans the room for Vronsky; she is excited this evening, of course, but she is experienced enough at such events that she can observe while she dances. She sees groupings of people, including Stepan Arkadyevitch and his stunning sister. Then she sees Vronsky; she has not seen him since the night she refused Levin and is aware that he is looking at her now.

Kitty asks her partner to deposit her with Anna Karenina, and they waltz over to her. Anna Karenina is wearing a low-cut black velvet gown with lovely natural adornments and a few jewels. Kitty has been in the older woman’s company every day since she arrived and adores her; when she looks at her tonight she sees a woman of simplicity and elegance who is also full of joy and eagerness. When Anna Karenina sees Kitty, she gives her new friend an imperceptible nod of approval for her appearance tonight.

Kitty’s waltz partner asks Anna Karenina to dance, but she demurs until Vronsky approaches; then she quickly accepts the man’s offer, ignoring the count’s bow. This sudden change of heart and disregard for courtesy is puzzling to Kitty. Vronsky apologizes to Kitty for not having seen her before this and reminds her that he will be partnering her for the first quadrille. The waltz is still playing, and Kitty expects him to ask her to join him, but he does not and she looks at him wonderingly.

Vronsky flushes slightly and hurriedly asks her to dance, but just as they take the first step the music stops. Kitty gazes into her partner’s face, close to her own, with all the love she feels and is mortified to see that he makes no response. It is a moment of agonizing shame that she will remember for several years.