Part 4, Chapter 21 Summary
As Princess Betsy is leaving the Karenins’ home, she is met by Stepan Arkadyevitch, who is delighted to see her. He hints to her that he is here from St. Petersburg to help his sister somehow, and Princess Betsy is thrilled. They huddle in a corner of the drawing room, and she whispers that Alexey Alexandrovitch is “killing” Anna Karenina with this impossible situation, which is being talked about by everyone in town.
It is clear Alexey Alexandrovitch does not know his wife and does not understand that she is pining for Vronsky because she is not the kind of woman who can love casually. Princess Betsy says one of two things must happen: Alexey Alexandrovitch must act decisively and either let Anna Karenina go with Vronsky, or give her a divorce. The current situation is stifling her. Stepan Arkadyevitch says he is here to express his thanks for his new position as chamberlain, but he is mostly here to help settle this matter for his sister.
Stepan Arkadyevitch finds his sister in tears and immediately changes his ebullient mood to one of sympathy. He tries to encourage her, but she dismisses his platitudes and says that while most women love men despite their vices, she hates her husband for his virtues. The sight of him is repugnant to her, and she can no longer live with him. When she used to think she could not be more miserable, she could not conceive that things would get worse. Even knowing Alexey Alexandrovitch is a good man, she hates him and tells her brother she has considered drastic measures to get out of her awful situation.
No one else could have smiled at Anna Karenina at that moment without seeming uncaring and insensitive; however, Stepan Arkadyevitch’s smile is tender and sweet, and Anna Karenina is soon soothed by it. Finally she tells him things are so strained that something may snap, but it has not ended yet; however, she is certain there will be a fearful end. Stepan Arkadyevitch assures her that there is always a way out of every circumstance, and killing herself...
(The entire section is 541 words.)