Anna Karenina Part 2, Chapters 4-11
The upper echelons of Moscow societyare described. The most elite social circle, to which Karenin belongs, consists of government officials. The next circle is headed by Countess Lydia Ivanova, and is composed of "elderly, ugly, benevolent, and godly women, and clever, learned, and ambitious men." It is referred to as the conscience of Petersburg society. The final circle is the world of high society--balls, gowns and the fashionable elite. This sparkling group is led by Princess Betsy Tverskaya. Each circle, Tolstoy tells us, overlaps to some extent.
"The highest Petersburg society is essentially one: in it everyone knows everyone else, everyone even visits everyone else." Part 2, Chapter 4, pg. 135
It becomes clear from the start that the princess is designed to be a mocked character. She is shallow, superficial and quite the gossip. She and her counterparts begin to talk about Anna and Vronsky. From what the Princess says, everyone knows that Anna and the count have some feelings for one another.
Later on in the night, Anna and Vronsky both arrive at Betsy's, though separately.
"Steps were heard at the door, and Princess Betsy, knowing it was Madame Karenina, glanced at Vronsky. He was looking toward the door, and his face wore a strange new expression. Joyfully, intently, and at the same time timidly, he gazed at the approaching figure, and slowly he rose to his feet." Part 2, Chapter 7, pg. 146
Karenin notices that his wife is spending a great deal of time talking with the count, and he doesn't have a problem with it initially. That starts to change, however, when everyone at the party begins to gossip and spread rumors about Anna and Vronsky. Karenin feels he has some business to straighten out with his wife:
"Alexey Alexandrovich had seen nothing striking or improper in the fact that his wife was sitting with Vronsky at a separate table, in eager conversation with him about something. But he noticed that to the rest of the party this appeared to be something striking and improper. He made up his mind that he must speak of it to his wife." Part 2, Chapter 8, pg. 151
Karenin knows he needs to say something to Anna about the notion of an extramarital affair. He goes home early from the party to think things through. He decides that he isn't jealous, but that he is bothered mainly by what everybody else is saying. After all, Karenin has been the perfect husband, or so he believes. How could Anna really love someone else? She couldn't, he decides. So he figures out a reasonable, rational way to get his point across to Anna. He has two main points he chooses to emphasize: first, the significance of public opinion, and second, the religious obligations of a marriage. If those two techniques don't work, he will mention the potential harm an affair would bring to their son, and also to Anna herself.
The talk doesn't go well. Anna lies and pretends nothing is going on. Karenin is blatantly nervous, cracking his knuckles. Inside, though, Anna is fraught with frustration and anger. To her, Karenin doesn't know the slightest thing about love. She begins to forget her guilt; rather, she starts to blame Karenin internally for his failed attempt at loving her. Karenin gives up, aware now that there is nothing he can really do to save his marriage.
In Chapter 10, Anna and Vronsky consummate their love, after a year of courting and flirting. Yet Anna has a strange reaction: she falls at Vronsky's feet and begs forgiveness. She is again consumed by her guilt. At this point, Anna and Vronsky realize they have started a new chapter in their relationship, and neither is quite sure of how to deal with the realization of the extramarital affair.