Study Guide

Anna Karenina Part 5, Chapter 20

By Leo Tolstoy

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Part 5, Chapter 20

  • The following day, Nicholas is given communion and extreme unction (i.e., last rights, where a priest prepares a soul for its afterlife).
  • The extreme unction raises everyone's hopes. Nicholas momentarily does much better, and Levin and Kitty believe in the possibility of a miracle recovery.
  • All hope disappears when Nicholas wakes up with a violent coughing fit.
  • Nicholas later confesses to Levin that his well-being after extreme unction was all a charade for to make Kitty feel better.
  • That evening, Masha rushes to their rooms and says that Nicholas is dying.
  • Both Kitty and Levin go to Nicholas's bedside. Levin tells Kitty to leave.
  • Levin stays by Nicholas's bedside waiting for the end, but Nicholas lingers on. Every time Levin tries to tiptoe out of the room, Nicholas asks him not to leave.
  • At dawn, Levin goes back to his own room. He wakes up expecting to hear of his brother's death, but Nicholas's condition has reverted to its previous state.
  • Nicholas begins suffering in earnest. Nothing pleases him. He's irritable and difficult.
  • Everyone begins hoping for his death, but no one talks openly of it. As for Nicholas, he keeps talking about the possibilities of recovery. They all indulge him in this delusion, a deceit that especially hurts Levin.
  • Nicholas continues to suffer.
  • On the tenth day after their arrival, Kitty gets sick. She throws up and can't get out of bed in the morning.
  • That night, she visits Nicholas.
  • Masha predicts that tonight Nicholas will die.
  • Her prediction comes true after the priest reads the death service over Nicholas.
  • For Levin, his brother's death renews his own interest in death and the feeling of its nearness and inevitably.
  • The doctor confirms that Kitty is pregnant.

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