Anna Karenina Part 5, Chapter 29 Summary

Leo Tolstoy

Part 5, Chapter 29 Summary

One of Anna Karenina’s primary objectives in coming back to St. Petersburg is to see her son, and ever since she and Vronsky left Italy the thought of it has kept her in a constant state of agitation. The closer they get to her former home, the more important this meeting grows in her mind. She does not even bother to wonder how she will arrange a meeting, as it seems a natural and simple thing for her to see her son when she is in the same town as he. Once they arrive, however, Anna Karenina is acutely aware of her fallen position in society and realizes it could be difficult for her to see Seryozha.

It has been two days and she has not yet seen him. She feels she has no right to go to the house where she might also see Alexey Alexandrovitch; the thought of corresponding with her husband makes her miserable; just getting a glimpse of Seryozha as he is out walking is not enough for her;  and she cannot locate the former nurse who might have helped her see her son. She has heard that Lidia Ivanovna is a close friend of Alexey Alexandrovitch, so she writes her to make the request on her behalf. Anna Karenina is confident that if her husband reads the letter, he will not refuse her request.

When the countess sends the message that there will be no reply, Anna Karenina is crushed. Her suffering is done in solitude because she knows Vronsky could never understand the depth of her suffering, and if she heard him express some meaningless words she would hate him. So, she hides from Vronsky everything to do with her son. Just as she is composing a second letter, she receives a scathing letter from the countess and begins to blame others rather than herself. Anna Karenina resolves to see her son.

After buying some toys and putting on a veil, she goes to her former home early, before Alexey Alexandrovitch is up. She rather pushes her way past several startled servants (one of them recognizes her and bows deferentially) until she reaches Seryozha’s room. The tutor is in the room, but she pays him no attention. Her son is sleeping, and when she sees him a fresh rush of love consumes her. In all her imaginings of this reunion, Anna Karenina had visualized Seryozha as the four-year-old she used to cuddle; now she is struck by how much he has grown and changed in just the few months she has been gone.

Seryozha hears his mother whispering his name, and he smiles in his sleep. When he finally wakes, there is much hugging and kissing between them. Their meeting is tender and sweet, and the boy tells his mother he never believed that she was dead.