Anna Karenina Part 1, Chapters 7-15
Levin's brother has been very ill with tuberculosis (referred to as consumption). Levin cannot cope with the idea of death and becomes depressed whenever he thinks of his brother. Before he even begins to deal with the death, he feels he must propose to Kitty Shcherbatsky, which is why he has arrived in Moscow.
Levin heads off to the skating rink to meet up with Kitty and her family. He tries to show off with his skating skills, and Kitty for a minute regains her fondness for Levin. Still, she believes she's in love with Vronsky, a man of social status. Kitty's own mother favors Vronsky as a match. Even though Princess Shcherbatsky invites Levin to her home, she does so with an air of coolness, and Levin grows uneasy, thinking his love for Kitty will be left unfulfilled.
"The place where [Kitty] stood seemed to him a holy shrine, unapproachable, and there was one moment when he was almost retreating, so overwhelmed was he with terror. He had to make an effort to master himself, and to remind himself that people of all sorts were moving about her, and that he too might come there to skate. He walked down, for a long while avoiding looking at her as at the sun, but seeing her, as one does the sun, without looking." Part 1, Chapter 9, pg. 32
Levin and Stiva dine together at a fancy French restaurant, and are once again contrasted. Stiva is of course comfortable and at home in an elegant restaurant, while Levin is noticeably out of place. Still, Levin doesn't care, for he is disgusted with superficial elements of life. Stiva refuses to speak French with the waiter, because he doesn't want to give the waiter an upper-class social status. At the restaurant, Levin and Stiva discuss women, and Levin laments his love for Kitty. He also seeks her forgiveness, since he "played around" during his younger years. During the conversation between the two men, Stiva reveals a certain liking for the count (since the count has amassed such status), but still tells Levin that he should indeed propose to Kitty.
Levin's arrival at the Shcherbatsky's prompts an argument between Kitty's parents. Her father, the prince, favors Levin. Her mother, the princess, favors Vronsky. She finds Levin too awkward and marred by country life. We see the beginning of the dissipation of arranged "French" marriages and the introduction of English marriages, where young people decide on their own who to marry:
"The French fashion-of the parents arranging their children's future-was not accepted; it was condemned. The English fashion of the complete independence of girls was also not accepted, and not possible in Russian society. The Russian fashion of matchmaking by the officer of intermediate persons was for some reason considered disgraceful; it was ridiculed by everyone, and by the princess herself. But how girls were to be married, and how parents were to marry them, no one knew." Part 1, Chapter 12, pg. 49
The princess feels uncomfortable with the change but recognizes that Kitty's marriage has to involve a mixture of parental guidance and free choice. The prince feels that if Kitty marries Vronsky, she might run into the same difficulties Dolly ran into with Stiva, since both men are from the same general background.
The next day, Levin proposes and Kitty refuses him. She says she just doesn't know what her feelings are. Hearing his proposal, she is "filled with rapture," but then she remembers Vronsky. Levin tries to leave her home but is prevented from doing so by the princess, Kitty's mother. The evening that follows is torture for Levin, as he gets needled by one of Kitty's friends, Countess Nordston. Countess Nordston is shown as shallow, especially when criticizing country life for being dull. Levin is forced to spend the evening with Vronsky, as well. Levin says it's no wonder Kitty would prefer such a handsome, dapper, graceful officer. Kitty's father, however, shines some light on the situation:
"I see a man who has serious intentions, that's Levin; and I see a peacock, like this featherhead, who's only amusing himself." Part 1, Chapter 15, pg. 61