Anna Karenina Part 5, Chapter 21 Summary
by Leo Tolstoy

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Part 5, Chapter 21 Summary

After Princess Betsy and Stepan Arkadyevitch explain to him that all his wife wants is for him to stay away from her, Alexey Alexandrovitch is so distraught that he can make no decisions for himself. Whenever people step in to decide things for him, he readily assents. Only after Anna Karenina has gone and the English governess asks if she should dine with him or by herself does he clearly comprehend his position—and he is appalled by it.

The most difficult thing for him is reconciling his past with his present. He is not troubled by memories of his happy past with Anna Karenina; and, though it is painful to think about, he understands his wife’s unfaithfulness. Even if she had left him after declaring her unfaithfulness, Alexey Alexandrovitch would not be in this hopeless and incomprehensible position. Now he cannot reconcile the tenderness and love he felt for his sick wife and another man’s child with his current position: alone and ashamed, a useless laughing-stock despised by everyone.

For two days after Anna Karenina left, Alexey Alexandrovitch manages to perform his routine duties and remain composed and even indifferent to what has happened to him, though it costs him every bit of his nerve to hide his despair. On the second day, he is brought a bill from a fashionable clothing shop which his wife had not paid, and he sends for the clerk. When the man arrives, Alexey Alexandrovitch sits with his head in his hands for a long while, attempting several times to speak but not succeeding. The clerk finally leaves and Alexey Alexandrovitch finally has to admit he does not have the strength to maintain appearances any longer.

He knows that he will have to withdraw from society, for it will be merciless to him for this weakness. His despair is intensified because he knows there is not one other person in St. Petersburg to whom he can express his feelings and be seen simply as a suffering man.

Alexey Alexandrovitch is an orphan, raised (along with two brothers)...

(The entire section is 532 words.)