Summary and Analysis
Early one morning, Kitty wakes her husband to inform Levin that the birth pangs have begun. Panicked, Levin rushes to the doctor, to the pharmacist and wonders why everything seems to move with unbearable slowness while Kitty's life is in danger. Later that evening, his son is born. He is awestruck at the strange way of life of women, seemingly so superior and important to that of men. He feels a sense of apprehension at his son — at this new helpless life coming from nowhere that suddenly asserts itself as part of humanity.
Oblonsky, finding his affairs in a bad way, seeks a more lucrative post. He goes to Petersburg to connect with influential people, especially his brother-in-law Karenin. He intends to speak with Alexey Alexandrovitch about Anna as well as about a new position. When Stiva brings up the matter of divorce, Karenin says he will seek "guidance" and give a final answer in two days. On his way out, Stiva visits with Seriozha. He asks if the child remembers his mother. Blushing, the boy murmurs "No," and leaves the room. Mention of his mother has aroused painful memories which Seriozha always tries to repress.
At one of the parties Stiva attends at Betsy Tverskoy's he learns that Karenin is not only influenced by "that half-witted Lydia lvanovna" but by a "mystic nobody" named Landau who has been so taken up in Petersburg society that one woman has adopted him as her son. Karenin and the countess do not take a step without seeking the advice of this charlatan. Oblonsky calls on the Countess Lydia Ivanovna to ask her to recommend him among her influential friends. There he meets Karenin and Landau, the mystic. The countess and Alexey Alexandrovitch talk only about their new faith which they assure Stiva is the Sacred Truth. Then Landau goes into a trance, and from this state requests Oblonsky to depart. Stiva receives a note from Karenin the next day, a flat refusal for divorce. He realizes this decision is based on what the Frenchman said in his real or sham trance.
Levin's mystical wonderment at the birth of his child and women's destiny contrasts ironically with Karenin's mysticism. Levin is on the way to self-realization while Karenin is at a spiritual decline. His new found religious adherence is a way for him to avoid the pain of his humiliation and to save face. Allowing himself to be guided by the ridiculous mysticism of Landau and by the countess' excessive religiosity Karenin no longer assumes personal responsibility. This new belief offers him an even better way to avoid self-confrontation than that offered by his bureaucratic position.