Part 4, Chapter 23 Summary
Though Vronsky’s shot did not hit his heart, he was badly wounded and vacillated between life and death for several days after the incident. When he finally opens his eyes with lucidity, Vronsky sees his sister-in-law Varya and tells her the shooting was an accident and she must never speak of it; and she is to tell everyone else the same thing on his behalf or else it is “too ridiculous.” Varya assures him that no one is suggesting otherwise, but she looks at him questioningly and hopes he will not accidentally shoot himself again. He assures her he would not do such a thing, though he says it would have been better if his aim had been true.
Vronsky is better after the shooting in one sense: his action has erased his shame and humiliation. Other aspects of his life now seem possible to resume, but one thing he cannot recover from is the despair of losing Anna Karenina forever. He knows now he can never come between her and her husband and cannot erase from his memory the happiness he saw between them at what they supposed was her deathbed. These images haunt him.
His old friend and colleague Serpuhovskoy had planned Vronsky’s appointment to Tashkend, and Vronsky agreed to the position without hesitation; however, now that it is time for him to depart, Vronsky is bitter at the sacrifice he feels compelled to make. When he visited Princess Betsy, Vronsky told her that he wished he could see Anna Karenina once and then die. The princess had gone to see her friend, but she brought Vronsky the news that his request must go unfulfilled. Vronsky feels that this may be best, for such a meeting would have shattered what resolve he has left.
The next day, Princess Betsy visits Vronsky and announces that Alexey Alexandrovitch has agreed to a divorce, and therefore Vronsky can visit Anna Karenina. Without saying good-bye, asking any further questions, or questioning his own resolutions, Vronsky goes to her. Without looking at anyone or anything...
(The entire section is 533 words.)