Summary and Analysis
Kitty's delivery is long overdue and Levin, despite himself, settles into the expensive routine of Moscow life. He attends concerts, receives and returns pointless social calls, attends the English Club to dine, drink, and even plays some of the idle games his set indulges in. The club atmosphere of luxury, peace, and conviviality makes him even feel friendly toward Vronsky.
Oblonsky convinces Levin to meet his sister Anna who would be glad to see him. Her position is a trying one, Stiva tells him in the carriage, for none of Anna's women friends call on her. Despite her loneliness, she keeps herself occupied. Besides writing a promising children's book, Anna is taking charge of the destitute dependents of Vronsky's English groom who has ruined himself through drink. She is coaching the boy for school and has taken the girl into her house.
Levin's introduction to Anna is through the portrait he sees in the study. He is charmed by the picture of a woman of almost perfect beauty. Seeing Anna, he realizes the artist had caught her qualities, but finds the reality fresher and more seductive, though less dazzling.
Completely won over by Anna, Levin is touched not only by her charm and cultivation and intelligence, but by her deep sincerity.
When he returns home, Kitty flares up in jealousy noting the "peculiar brilliance of his eyes" from his visit with Anna. Kitty says Anna has bewitched him, that he has fallen in love with her. They become finally reconciled after a long talk.
Home alone, Anna wonders how she cannot refrain from wielding her charms on even a married man in love with his wife. The only one unaffected by her seems to be Vronsky and she blames him for lack of sympathy with her suffering. Vronsky returns home late, happy and cheerful from an evening at the club. His face becomes cold and set when Anna scolds him. She tells him she is "near disaster" when he acts so coldly. Alarmed, Vronsky becomes tender but seems to resent the surrender.
Anna's "bewitchment" of Levin is further evidence of her perdition and ultimate doom. Confronting Vronsky's coldness, she feels that "side by side with the love that bound them there had grown up some evil spirit of discord" which neither will be able to overcome.
Levin's sympathy for Anna underlines their similar natures, for each seeks a deeper life meaning than that defined by their social milieu. Tolstoy seems to imply that they might have become lovers under different circumstances. But after this brief coincidence of their parallel careers, Levin and Anna pursue different paths. Hers ends in death while Levin discovers the key to life.