Anna Karenina Part 2, Chapter 22 Summary

Leo Tolstoy

Part 2, Chapter 22 Summary

The rain does not last long, and Vronsky forgets all about the muddy racecourse as he approaches Anna Karenina’s house. As always, he gets out of the carriage before he crosses the bridge so he will not attract undue attention. He enters the courtyard and asks the gardener if his master is home. He is not, and Vronsky enters the house through the garden.

Anna Karenina is not expecting him, and he is filled with anticipation at seeing her. As he walks through the house, he has already forgotten the difficulties of their relationship until he remembers the greatest impediment to their freedom—her son. When her son is present, the two of them tacitly agree not to talk about anything referencing their illicit relationship. Vronsky often senses the boy’s bewilderment at his presence, and it seems to Vronsky that the boy can sense some significant bond between his mother and him, though he cannot understand it.

The boy struggles regularly with how to feel about Vronsky. His father, his nurse, and his governess all seem to despise the man, while his mother sees the man as her greatest friend. The boy blames himself for not being able to figure out how he is supposed to feel about Vronsky. The two adults are struck with a kind of self-loathing when they read these sentiments in the boy’s eyes. He makes them feel guilty without knowing or saying anything specific.

Today Seryozha is not home, and Vronsky finds Anna Karenina watering flowers on the terrace. He sees her and, as always, feels breathless, as if it were the first time he sees her. Just as he is about to greet her, she senses his presence and looks up at him with her flushed face. In spite of her efforts to remain calm, her hands are trembling. Vronsky speaks to her in French, as he always does, so he can speak to her in the more intimate singular rather than the awkward Russian plural.

She is glad to see him, though she wonders how others can conduct such affairs without the kind of torture she constantly feels. They talk about the races, but Anna Karenina wonders if she should tell him something of grave significance to them both. Vronsky sees that his love is distracted and pushes her into telling him why she seems so bothered and distracted today, and she finally tells him she is pregnant.

Though her hand shakes more violently, her eyes never leave Vronsky’s face. She watches as his head sinks to his chest, and she knows he understands the gravity of their situation. As he paces the terrace, he knows this is the inevitable turning-point in their relationship. Finally he tells her they must put an end to their deception; she must leave her husband and join her life to his. Though she is also joyful, tears of shame come to her eyes as they talk about what they must do next.