Summary and Analysis
During the three months that Anna and Vronsky travel abroad, they are sensitive to the reactions of their acquaintances. Avoiding contact with Russians, they discover that most people they know are tactful about their illegal relationship.
In this first period of freedom and rapid return to health, Anna feels "unpardonably happy," and her illness, the crisis of Karenin's attitude, leavetaking from her son, seem like parts of a fevered dream. Vronsky's presence is a continual delight for her. He is constantly attentive, showing no regret for sacrificing a promising career for her sake. Although seeking imperfections in Vronsky, Anna can find none.
Vronsky, however, soon learns that happiness "does not consist merely in the realizing of one's desires." After a period of contentment, he feels ennui. To fill sixteen leisure hours each day, he devotes himself to a succession of intense interests: first politics, then books, now painting. Although finding himself somewhat talented, his study and practice of art is brief. Vronsky realizes how shallow his talent is when they become acquainted with a Russian painter living in the same Italian town.
Abandoning his own portrait of Anna, he commissions the artist to paint her picture. Without this occupation, their life suddenly becomes boring. They decide to return to Russia and settle in the country. Anna plans to visit her son in Petersburg, while Vronsky intends business with his brother and divide their property.
Despite the happiness of her honeymoon, Anna is threatened by memories of her past as well as by the insecurity of her future. This insecurity is represented by the careful way in which Anna and Vronsky choose their circle of friends, for Vronsky's nature is dependent upon society for his fulfillment. Although he bravely represses his regrets for the past, Vronsky's feelings are implicit in his restless search for a calling beyond the demands of his love. The basic frivolity of his pursuits underlines once more the basic frivolity of his love. Tolstoy implies that Vronsky and Anna can be happy and at peace if they are away from the pressures of urban society. But the test of their relationship is yet to come when they return to the city and try to settle accounts with the past they have left behind in Petersburg.