Anna Karenina Part 5, Chapter 5 Summary
by Leo Tolstoy

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Part 5, Chapter 5 Summary

The elite of Moscow have gathered for the wedding of Levin and Kitty Shtcherbatsky. Around the room, hushed conversations of all kinds are being carried on by the guests. One wonders why the couple chose an evening wedding, something only “shop-people” usually do; another wonders why the bride’s oldest sister is wearing lilac, which is as bad as black at a wedding. One man remarks that it is believed that if a man acts as best man ten times, he is destined to remain unmarried; this same man also regrets he is not best man at this wedding, making it his tenth time to do so. The woman next to him only smiles at him, thinking about marrying him in the spring and reminding of him of the joke he just made. One thinks Kitty should be wearing a crown or tiara for the ceremony; another thinks that if she ever gets married it will be in a simple wedding without all the finery others prefer.

Levin’s brother, Sergey Ivanovitch, is jesting and assuring Kitty’s sister, Darya Alexandrovna, that the custom of married couples going away after the wedding is becoming common because newly married people always feel a bit ashamed of themselves. She assures him that his brother has no need to be ashamed, for his bride is a “marvel of sweetness.”

As the plighting of the troth ceremony continues, Darya Alexandrovna finds herself quite moved by the ceremony; she could not have spoken without crying. She is rejoicing over this union between Kitty and Levin, and she thinks back to her own wedding. When she glances over at her husband, Stepan Arkadyevitch, she forgets all about the present and remembers only the innocent love she once had for him. Her thoughts turn to all her women friends who were once brides like Kitty, and she thinks of Anna Karenina. Darya Alexandrovna had just heard about her beloved sister-in-law’s proposed divorce and remembers how she once stood innocently in a marriage ceremony with her husband, Alexey Alexandrovitch.

All the women in the room are intent on the ceremony, fearful of missing any moment of it and wishing the men would cease their rather callous comments and observations. The comments continue: why is the bride crying, will the couple will go immediately to the country, what a well matched couple, who will step on the rug first.