Summary and Analysis
Kitty is ill, and the prominent specialist who examines her, finding nothing specifically wrong suggests she be taken abroad to a health spa. Her father and Dolly both realize that Kitty's nervous irritability is due to a broken heart. The old prince blames his wife for influencing Kitty's affections in the first place, while Dolly explains to her mother that Kitty had refused Levin whom she might have accepted had she not counted on Vronsky's proposal. Princess Shtcherbatsky finally realizes the sin she committed against her daughter.
Tearful and miserable when Dolly comes to her room, Kitty does not divulge what her sister has already guessed: That she is ready to love and accept Levin and detest Vronsky. Instead Kitty rages. She says she is ashamed and humiliated at discovering herself to be a marketable commodity, that all the eligible men are free to look her over, that her parents are only interested in marrying her off. She only feels free with Dolly and the children, Kitty says.
Dolly's difficulties at that time were no better. Besides suspecting further infidelities of Stiva, Dolly is always short of money and her large family is a constant source of worry. Besides a new baby in the house, Dolly has to care for the children ill with scarlet fever. Kitty goes home with her sister to nurse the youngsters through their illnesses, and still unwell six weeks later, she and her parents go abroad during Lent.
Kitty's first venture into womanhood, resulting in failure, makes her retreat back into a dependence on her family. Having suffered deep humiliation on the very occasion she was intoxicated by her attractiveness and femininity (the moment when she looked with love at Vronsky) her reaction is to deny her womanhood. Kitty's physical illness expresses the violence of her denial. Kitty's immaturity is shown by her choice of Vronsky over Levin: Still influenced by her mother, she lacks the self-knowledge which would prompt her to choose accurately.
Kitty's crisis confuses her mother's sense of duty. While realizing she was wrong to influence her child, Princess Shtcherbatsky feels it is wrong not to guide her daughter. Besides touching on the difficulty of communication between generations, Tolstoy shows that judgments based on social principles rather than emotional values lead to disappointment and disillusion.