Anna Karenina Part 5, Chapter 4 Summary

Leo Tolstoy

Part 5, Chapter 4 Summary

The crowd is thrilled Levin has arrived, and when Stepan Arkadyevitch relates what caused the delay, there are smiles and whispers. Levin is aware only of his beautiful bride. Everyone says Kitty has lost some beauty over the past year, but Levin looks only at her eyes and sweet expression and feels she is more beautiful than ever.

Kitty smiles and says she thought he might have run away. Levin is so embarrassed he cannot speak about the missing shirt. Stepan Arkadyevitch interrupts to ask a foolish question, and Kitty’s sisters fuss with her attire. Neither Kitty nor Levin give them much attention.

After the priest and deacon put on their vestments again, the priest gives Levin simple instructions about holding Kitty’s hand as they walk down the aisle. Levin is unable to comprehend for a long time but finally takes her hand and follows the priest. The guests follow.

The priest lights candles at the lectern, and Levin notices he is the same old priest who administered confession. The priest looks at them with “weary and melancholy eyes” before sighing and beginning the ceremony of plighting the troth. He blesses the couple and Levin is struck with the unreality of this situation. Levin looks at Kitty and sees she is trembling; suddenly all the fuss and stress are washed away and he is filled with joy and dread.

More rituals are performed, the choir sings, prayers are said, and Levin finds himself admitting that he wants help from above to ensure he does the right things as a husband. He wonders if Kitty feels any of the same things; suddenly their eyes meet and he can see she is moved by the rites. In Kitty’s heart, this ceremony marks severance from her old life; an utterly new life is beginning.

For Kitty, the past six weeks have been filled with the utmost bliss and misery. She grew callously indifferent to her past and nothing she thought, felt, or did could be separated from Levin—yet her new, much anticipated life had not begun despite the change in her soul.

Rings are exchanged, despite puzzled moments when the couple does not understand what they are expected to do. Others step forward to help, and finally the priest intones a final blessing. Levin believes any ideas he had of marriage are “mere childishness,” and he knows even less about such things than he did before. A lump rises in his throat and tears spring involuntarily to his eyes.