Anna Karenina Part 4, Chapter 20 Summary
by Leo Tolstoy

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Part 4, Chapter 20 Summary

After he sees Princess Betsy out, Alexey Alexandrovitch goes back to his wife. Anna Karenina looks frightened and has been crying. He gently tells her he appreciates her confidence in him and sits down beside her bed. He speaks in Russian, using the Russian “thou” used to denote intimacy and affection, which is insufferably irritating to Anna Karenina. Alexey Alexandrovitch says he is grateful for her decision and agrees with her that since Vronsky is going away, there is no need for him to come and say good-bye.

Unable to suppress her irritation, Anna Karenina interrupts her husband and asks why, since she has already said so, he feels he must repeat it. She thinks to herself that a man so consumed with love that he is ready to kill himself has even more need to see her, and she knows she cannot live without him and needs to see him too. But she compresses her lips, drops her eyes, and stares at her husband’s swollen, veiny hands as he wrings them together.

Anna Karenina says she wishes never to speak of this again but knows what her predictable husband will say next. Alexey Alexandrovitch says he does not appreciate Princess Betsy’s interference; Anna Karenina quickly defends her, saying she knows Princess Betsy truly cares for her and that she refuses to believe the things others say about the princess. Alexey Alexandrovitch sighs and says nothing. She experiences the usual tortuous sensation of physical repulsion for her husband, and all Anna Karenina wants is for him to leave.

She wants the oppressive presence gone, but Alexey Alexandrovitch wants to talk to her about baby Anna. He tells her he has sent for the doctor because the wet nurse does not have enough milk to feed the child. Anna Karenina is self-absorbed and blames him for not letting her nurse the baby as she wanted; she whines that now she is being blamed for this situation. When her husband demurs, saying he does not blame her, Anna Karenina breaks into sobs and asks why she did not just die. When she regains some control, Anna Karenina asks her husband to forgive...

(The entire section is 552 words.)