Anna Karenina Part 4, Chapter 16 Summary

Leo Tolstoy

Part 4, Chapter 16 Summary

When Princess Shtcherbatsky asks Levin when the wedding will be, he tells her he would like to have the benediction and announcement today and the wedding tomorrow, but Kitty’s mother says that is quite mad. There is the trousseau to think about, among other preparations, and Levin admits he knows nothing about such things and only spoke what he would like to have happen. Before they leave the room, Kitty’s parents display affection as if it were they who shared a newly discovered love.

When they are alone, Levin and Kitty can finally say some things they have wanted to say; however, Levin tells her only that he always felt as if their being together was ordained. He does not tell her the two things he most wants her to know: he is not as chaste as she, and he is not a believer. Kitty says she has always loved him, even when she turned down his first offer of marriage, something she asks him now to forgive her for doing. He promises to finish his confession later.

Their conversation is interrupted first by servants and then by relatives, all offering their congratulations. Levin finds all of it awkward and uncomfortable, but he often finds that his happiness increases with all of the attention his engagement is given. Though he thought his experience would be different from others, Levin discovers it is much like everyone else’s. Each time someone suggests what should be gotten next, Levin goes and gets it. He procures candy and flowers and will soon be purchasing a myriad of other gifts. At each stop, he is expected and met with great happiness.

Even people previously unsympathetic or even cold to him are now enthusiastic with him and share his conviction that he is the happiest man in the world because he is betrothed to the most perfect woman in the world. Kitty feels the same way, and those around her are all soon professing that her future husband is the epitome of the perfect man.

The one blemish on this otherwise ecstatic time is Levin’s promised confession. After consulting with Prince Shtcherbatsky, Levin leaves his journals for Kitty to read, believing strongly that there should be no secrets between them. Now she would know about his lack of religious beliefs and his lack of chastity. Later, after she has read them, Levin sees her “tear-stained, pitiful, sweet face” and feels miserable because there is nothing he can undo. He feels the abyss of separation caused by his shameful past, especially in contrast to Kitty’s “dovelike purity.”

Kitty tells Levin to take his dreadful books away from her. Though it is best that she knows, and she forgives him everything, Kitty says it is terrible to know such things. Levin is so happy and relieved at her forgiveness that he considers himself, more than ever, unworthy of her and prizes her more highly for his undeserved happiness.