Anna Karenina Part 5, Chapter 18 Summary
by Leo Tolstoy

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Part 5, Chapter 18 Summary

Levin finds it impossible to be calm and act naturally in his dying brother’s presence.  He is inescapably aware of the awful sights and smells, and it never occurs to him that anything can be done to help or change these conditions. He does not think about his brother’s body lying all huddled up under a quilt or that it might be made more comfortable. In fact, Levin is absolutely convinced there is nothing which can be done to alleviate his brother’s suffering or prolong his life in any way. Unfortunately, Nikolay senses his brother’s feeling of helplessness and is exasperated by it, making everything even worse for Levin. Being in the sick room is agony to him; not being there is even worse. Levin is constantly leaving his brother’s room under one pretext or another, unable to remain in the room alone.

Kitty views things quite differently. As soon as she sees Nikolay, she pities him; and, unlike her husband, she immediately feels a woman’s desire to act. She needs to determine his exact condition and what can best be done to help him. Kitty has no doubt either that it is her duty to help him or that help is possible, so she immediately sets to work to make it happen. The same details which cause terror in her husband inspire Kitty.

She sends for the doctor and the pharmacist and orders her maid and Marya to begin cleaning the room, as does Kitty herself. She is in and out of the room, switching things around and bringing in fresh sheets, towels, pillowcases, and shirts. The waiter is annoyed at Kitty’s continual summons, but he does her bidding because she treats him with such graciousness. Levin disapproves of it all, for he does not believe anything will help his brother in any way. More than anything, he is afraid Nikolay will be angry at all the fussing over him, though the sick man seems indifferent and slightly embarrassed at all the attention.

Though he is embarrassed to be seen bare before Kitty while his nightshirt is being changed, Nikolay soon sits in a state of contentment, as everything around...

(The entire section is 560 words.)