Anna Karenina Part 2, Chapter 10 Summary
by Leo Tolstoy

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Part 2, Chapter 10 Summary

Ever since their discussion that night, things have been different between Alexey Alexandrovitch and Anna Karenina. On the surface, nothing has changed and nothing of any significance has happened. Anna Karenina is still actively attending her usual social gatherings, and she often ends up at her friend Princess Betsy’s home. Everywhere she goes, of course, she meets Vronsky.

Alexey Alexandrovitch sees all of it happening but feels he can do nothing to change it or repair it. Every effort he makes to draw his wife out, to have an open discussion of where things stand, is met with a barrier which Anna Karenina has erected and which he is unable to penetrate. This barrier is the pretense of amused perplexity, and he does not know how to surmount this obstacle.

Outwardly, everything is the same; however, the couple’s inner relationship is completely and significantly changed. Though Alexey Alexandrovitch is a man of great power and influence outside of his home and especially in the world of politics, he feels abjectly hopeless in the face of his wife’s seeming lack of concern for what is happening inside their home.

Now Alexey Alexandrovitch spends his days like an ox with its head bent, waiting for the heavy blow to his neck, which seems to him always about to happen. Each time he thinks about the intolerable situation, he determines to try to speak with her once more. He believes that if he uses kindness, tenderness, and persuasion, things might change. He hopes he can save her, can bring her back to her former self, so every day he prepares to talk to her.

Every time he begins to talk to her, though, he feels an instant spirit of evil and deceit. This spirit seems to have taken possession of her, and now it has begun to take possession of him, as well. Each time they talk, Alexey Alexandrovitch finds himself speaking in a tone quite different from the one which he had prepared and intended to use.

As he speaks to her, he involuntarily talks with his habitual jeering. It is the same tone he would use to scorn anyone else for saying to another the things he was saying to his wife. He is intensely aware that as long he is using that tone of voice, it will be impossible to tell Anna Karenina the important things he needs to say to her.