Anna Karenina Part 1, Chapter 34 Summary

Leo Tolstoy

Part 1, Chapter 34 Summary

When Vronsky left St. Petersburg for Moscow, he left his large apartment for one of his favorite friends, Petritsky. He is a young lieutenant and he is not well connected or rich; in fact, he is nearly always in great debt. Most evenings Petritsky ends up drunk, and he has often been locked up after ridiculous and sometimes disgraceful scandals. Despite all this, he is a favorite of both his peers and his superiors.

Vronsky arrives at his rooms at noon and sees a familiar carriage outside the building. As he rings the bell, he hears voices inside and tells his servant not to announce him. He sneaks into the room and sees Petritsky and another officer sitting on either side of Baroness Shilton, resplendent in her finery, at the table.

There is a comfortable and warm reunion, and the baroness makes them all coffee to celebrate Vronsky’s homecoming. She asks Vronsky if he has brought a wife back from Moscow, something they all expected him to do. He tells them he is not destined to marry. The baroness immediately asks Vronsky’s advice, since her husband is refusing to give her a divorce. Now she wants to sue him because she needs her property; however, he wants her fortune because he claims she has been unfaithful to him (which of course she has).

Vronsky enjoys the lighthearted conversation and gives her some “half-joking counsel,” comfortable talking to her as she expects to be talked to by men like Vronsky. In St. Petersburg, the lower, vulgar class believes that one husband should remain faithful to one woman who is pure when he marries her. These people pay their debts and earn an honest living. This is an old-fashioned and ridiculous group; the real people are everyone else, those like Vronsky and his friends, who abandon themselves to every passion without any thought of the consequences and laugh at everything else. This is why Vronsky felt as if things were somehow different in Moscow.

As the guests prepare to go, Vronsky says his farewells and retires to his dressing room. Soon Petritsky is explaining his changed state of affairs to Vronsky. He has no money at all, his tailor is trying to get him put in prison, and his father has refused to pay any more of his debts. His colonel has told him that if the scandals continue he will be forced to leave the military, and he is now bored with Baroness Shilton. He has, however, found a new, exquisite girl. Petritsky relates all the latest city gossip, and Vronsky feels as if he is back in a comfortable place as he shares some healthy laughter with his friend.

Once he has heard all the news, Vronsky puts on his uniform and goes to report his return. After that he intends to start making social calls in the hopes of meeting Anna Karenina. As usual, Vronsky leaves home without intending to return until late.