Study Guide

Anna Karenina Part 2, Chapter 32

By Leo Tolstoy

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Part 2, Chapter 32

  • We get an overview of Madame Stahl and Varenka in this chapter.
  • Madame Stahl was always a sickly woman. After she gave birth to a stillborn baby, her relatives were afraid that the news would kill her, and replaced the dead baby with Varenka, who was born on the same night to a baker.
  • Madame Stahl eventually found out that Varenka was not her daughter, but brought her up anyway.
  • Madame Stahl is involved in religion—she's friends with all the important people in various denominations of Christianity.
  • Madame Stahl and Varenka live abroad. Varenka is well-educated and speaks English and French.
  • Kitty's admiration of Varenka becomes increasingly intense as she discovers more of Varenka's interesting qualities.
  • For instance, Varenka can sing well. But It's not just that she can sing well that Kitty admires, it's the fact that Varenka doesn't really care that she can sing well that really seems unusual.
  • At one point, Kitty accompanies Varenka on piano.
  • Varenka hesitates before singing this one Italian song.
  • Kitty questions her about her hesitation later.
  • It turns out Varenka used to sing that song to her lover. The two of them adored each other and were going to get married, but his mother didn't want him to marry Varenka.
  • Kitty asks how she would have reacted to the humiliation if, instead of it being his mother who called off the wedding, he simply did not love her back.
  • Kitty is obviously asking about her own situation, which Varenka realizes.
  • She tells Kitty that there are more important things in life, and that Kitty is being pointlessly sensitive. After all, Kitty never confessed her one-sided love to the man himself. Varenka says that the point now is whether Kitty still loves him or not.
  • Kitty doesn't get it. To her, all that matters is the shame: she can't forgive herself and she hates Vronsky (though she never mentions him by name).
  • She looks at Varenka, trying to figure out what could be the most important thing to Varenka that gives her calmness and serenity.
  • Kitty's mother calls for Kitty to come inside.
  • Varenka goes to visit and have tea with her mother.

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