Part 4, Chapter 17 Summary
Alexey Alexandrovitch returns to his room alone, reflecting on Darya Alexandrovna’s words about forgiveness, words that annoy him since he has already decided this Christian precept is not applicable to his situation. What he most remembers from this evening is Turovtsin’s comment that men must defend their honor by dueling. Everyone in the room tacitly agreed with that sentiment, though they did not speak the words. Alexey Alexandrovitch’s matter has been settled another way, so he tells himself it is useless to think about such things.
He receives two telegrams. The first is an announcement of Stremov’s appointment to a position Alexey Alexandrovitch coveted. He is annoyed that he was passed over for the promotion and incredulous that the “wordy phrase-monger” Stremov was deemed fit for the job. He bitterly opens the next telegram, a plea from his wife for him to come home. She claims she is dying and will “die easier” if she has his forgiveness.
Alexey Alexandrovitch is at first contemptuous and assumes it is a trick to prevent a divorce. Upon reflection, he wonders whether her confinement has really put her in danger, and if it is true that she is dying, it would be not only cruel but “stupid” not to respond to the request. He will go. If he arrives in St. Petersburg and it is a trick, he will simply do nothing and leave again; if Anna Karenina is in real danger, he will forgive her. If she has died, he will “pay her last duties.”
Alexey Alexandrovitch does not think about what will be waiting for him. As he enters his home, he summons his resolution and is determined either to display calm or content and then leave, or to do what is proper and necessary. The porter says Anna Karenina had her child yesterday, and Alexey Alexandrovitch turns white and realizes how much he had longed for her death.
Vronsky is weeping in Anna Karenina’s boudoir and begs Alexey Alexandrovitch to let him stay, and as always, Alexey Alexandrovitch is moved by the sight of tears. Silently, he enters his wife’s room and finds her speaking deliriously about forgiveness and hoping no one will forget...
(The entire section is 558 words.)