Rather than letting her hire horses from the village, Levin, knowing Dolly's financial situation and mindful of his duty as a host, insists that she use his own. Dolly had originally meant to hire horses, because she knows that the Levin family wants absolutely nothing to do with Vronsky.
During the four-hour drive, Dolly is able truly to reflect on her life. She realizes that her whole existence consists of having children and raising them – a lot of morning sickness, sleepless nights, and endless grumpiness. Her husband doesn't find her attractive and now all of them are barely staying afloat financially.
Looking at a crowd of merry peasant women, Dolly envies their joy in living. She thinks of other women she knows, Anna in particular, who are fully living life.
Dolly starts to envy Anna, even though Anna has been thrown out of society, and Dolly starts to daydream about all the men who have admired her over the years. Maybe she could have an affair with one of them, she thinks, grinning as she imagines the look on her husband's face when she tells him she is in love with another man.