Anna Karenina Part 4, Chapter 18 Summary
by Leo Tolstoy

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Part 4, Chapter 18 Summary

Alexey Alexandrovitch has said he forgives his wife unconditionally, will never abandon her, and will never speak a word of reproach to Vronsky, and this causes a turmoil of emotions in Vronsky. He feels disgraced, humiliated, guilty, and deprived of all possibility of washing away his humiliation. He feels as if all the rules he has lived by have suddenly become false and inapplicable. Alexey Alexandrovitch had been a weak and rather ludicrous figure, but he has now been elevated to “an awe-inspiring pinnacle” of honesty, grandness, and forgiveness. Even worse, Vronsky feels as if their positions have been reversed, and he is now the base character in this drama.

Vronsky is also miserable because his feelings for Anna Karenina, which had been waning, are stronger than they have ever been—now that he has lost her forever. He feels as if he came to know her very soul when she was so ill. Just as he had finally learned to know her and love her as she should be loved, he was humiliated in front of her, lost to her forever, leaving nothing of himself but a shameful memory. He is distraught when he leaves his lover’s house and does not know what to do next.

For three sleepless nights, Vronsky is tormented with nightmarish images of Anna Karenina in her illness, Alexey Alexandrovitch in his forgiveness, and his own humiliation. Every time he shuts his eyes, these images appear and he is violently shocked into wakefulness. What he keeps asking himself is how he and Anna Karenina can be reconciled. It is a question he asks with such repetition that it temporarily erases his shameful memories, but that works only for a short while.

When he tries to sleep again, Vronsky’s new repetition begins, reminding him he did not appreciate what he had while he had it. The mad whisper of these words keeps him from sleep yet again; he wonders what he has left of his life if he no longer has Anna Karenina. Anything that once had meaning no longer holds any reality for him apart from her. He begins pacing his...

(The entire section is 547 words.)