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Oblonsky feels awkward and shy going in to talk to Karenin.
Oblonsky begins broaching the subject of Anna.
Karenin pulls out a letter that says everything he's wanted to say to Anna. It asks her what she wants to do. The letter says that the ball's in her court.
Oblonsky is speechless and choked with tears. Finally, he points out that Karenin's generosity has crushed Anna.
Karenin asks what then is supposed to be done in such a situation.
Oblonsky suggests that divorce is the only option that would make Anna happy.
Karenin has already thought about this and rejected it as an option. He can't contemplate either lowering his own reputation or going against the teachings of the church.
What's more, he worries about what would happen to Seryozha if he joined Anna in an illegitimate family with Vronsky. Beyond any of this, divorce would ruin Anna, which Karenin doesn't want. According to Church law, a woman who has been divorced cannot remarry while her husband is alive, so she would have to live out a criminal marriage with Vronsky.
Oblonsky presses the point, and finally Karenin tells him to do whatever. At the same time that he feels shame at his powerlessness, he also feels exalted by his own humility.
Oblonsky leaves the room feeling satisfied. He begins thinking up jokes to tell about his role in achieving a fair solution for all parties.