Study Guide

Anna Karenina Part 1, Chapter 14

By Leo Tolstoy

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Part 1, Chapter 14

  • The Princess finally comes into the room, and begins to question Levin about life in the country.
  • Countess Nordston, a friend of Kitty's, enters. She's rooting for Vronsky, and really dislikes Levin.
  • Countess Nordston and Levin outwardly look like they're on friendly terms, but they secretly dislike each other. The Countess tries to pick a fight with him over the status of the peasantry (a.k.a. muzhiks) by saying that all of the tenants on her lands spend all of their time drinking and not paying rent.
  • Vronsky arrives. Levin is curious to see what sort of man he is, since Levin knows that Vronsky is his main rival for Kitty's affections.
  • They all make idle conversation about which is better, the countryside or the city, and Levin keeps meaning to leave but can't figure out how, because he feels somehow that he is waiting for something.
  • They then have a discussion on spiritualism, in which Countess Nordston believes.
  • Levin is awkward in advancing his rationalist opinion, and has to be saved by Kitty and Vronsky. In particular, Vronsky feels that the conversation has become tense, and turns the conversation to electricity, a new force that science is just beginning to understand.
  • Levin counters that electricity was the discovery of an existing phenomenon, but that spiritualism depends on the invention of a medium who wants it to be there. In other words, we can observe electricity without imagining what it will do next or knowing where it comes from, but spiritualism is based on wishful thinking about moving tables and spirits.
  • Everyone feels a little bit embarrassed by Levin's passion and seriousness. To break the awkwardness, Vronsky suggests that they search out a table and give this spiritualism thing a try.
  • Kitty feels bad about turning Levin down, but at the same time is happy with her choice of Vronsky.
  • Kitty's father comes in and obviously favors Levin over Vronsky.
  • Vronsky asks Kitty if she's going to the ball next week, and her happy face is the last thing Levin sees before he slips out the door.

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