Anna Karenina Part 4, Chapter 10 Summary

Leo Tolstoy

Part 4, Chapter 10 Summary

The members of the dinner party continue to discuss the best method of influencing people toward higher development. One argues for more classical studies, such as languages and culture, while another favors the natural sciences, such as astrology, botany, and zoology. Alexey Alexandrovitch finds himself favoring the classical studies, though he sees merit in the scientific studies. Studying the classical authors is apt to promote a higher morality, though, while the study of natural sciences is associated with many of the “false and noxious” current doctrines.

Levin’s brother, Sergey Ivanovitch, finishes the argument by claiming that it is classical studies, which are distinctly antinihilistic, that have shaped current thinking; therefore it is no surprise that the more common view is that classical studies most benefit society. He makes this point in an amusing way, and finally listeners have something about which to laugh, lightening the mood—but not for long. The next topic of discussion is the value of education for women.

Alexey Alexandrovitch claims that educating women is dangerous only insomuch as it is confused with the emancipation of women. One of the scholars, Pestsov, notes that their education and emancipation are inextricably linked, for a lack of access to an education is a sure indication of an absence of rights. The subjugation of women, he continues, goes so far back that men are often unwilling to see the disparity of rights between the sexes.

Sergey Ivanovitch argues that many of the so-called rights women are being deprived of—such as sitting on juries, voting, and entering civil service—should actually be considered duties. If that is so, women’s desire for these duties is entirely legitimate and correct. Alexey Alexandrovitch agrees but wonders whether women are fit for such duties, and Stepan Arkadyevitch claims that they will be if they are educated. He concludes with the observation that it seems strange to him that women are seeking more duties while men seem always to be trying to avoid them.

Pestsov says duties are connected to "rights"—power, money, and honor. It is those things that women are seeking. Prince Shtcherbatsky makes a humorous remark about men not having the right to do the things women do, such as nursing children, and the mood of the room is lightened once more. Stepan Arkadyevitch asks about women who have no family (thinking specifically of his ballet dancer lover), and his wife (knowing very well the kind of woman about whom her husband is speaking) tartly replies that such a woman has likely chosen to do something foolish and abandoned her family.

Pestsov ends the discussion by concluding that women desire to have rights, to be independent, and to get an education and that they are oppressed and humiliated by their awareness of their lack of ability to do so.