Anna Karenina Part 5, Chapter 3 Summary
by Leo Tolstoy

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Part 5, Chapter 3 Summary

A throng primarily of women is gathered around the church, waiting for the wedding. Those who cannot fit into the building crowd and push to peek through the gratings. More than twenty carriages have arrived and more are driving up to deliver men and women in fine dress. The church is warm with color and flowers, velvets and satins, frock coats and long gloves. Quiet but lively conversations come to an abrupt halt every time the door creaks open, and everyone looks around expecting the bride and groom.

Soon the crowd realizes the ceremony is late; people watch the door apprehensively, trying to appear as if they are not worried. The head deacon coughs discreetly, as if to remind everyone his time is valuable, and the choir is noticeably restless. The priest sends first the beadle and then the deacon to check on the groom’s arrival; later he goes himself to the side door, expecting to see Levin out of the window.

Finally, one of the ladies glances at her watch and comments on the lateness, which seems to be a signal for the entire crowd to grow restless and express discontent. Kitty has long been ready and now anxiously waits to hear of Levin’s arrival.

Meanwhile, a crazed Levin is pacing, half-dressed, back and forth in his hotel room—much to the amusement of Stepan Arkadyevitch. When Levin ordered his manservant to pack his things and deliver them to the Shtcherbatskys’ house (from which the couple will depart after the celebrations), the servant left out everything Levin wanted to wear except a clean shirt.

It is a long way to get one of his own shirts from the Shtcherbatskys’, so Levin sends a servant to buy a new shirt. The man returns empty handed because it is Sunday and shops are closed. After sending for one of Stepan Arkadyevitch’s shirts, Levin realizes it is impossibly wide and short. He is “like a wild beast in a cage.” Even worse, he recalls with horror and despair all the absurd things he said to Kitty earlier in the day and what she might be thinking now that he is so late.

At last, the manservant comes running into the room with the shirt, and Levin runs out of the room three minutes later. He refuses to look at his watch, knowing it will only compound his misery. An amused Stepan Arkadyevitch follows more slowly and deliberately.