From the second scene of the novel we anticipate Anna's arrival. Her brother Stiva and his valet Matvei welcome her as an emissary to save his marriage; her sister-in-law Dolly sees her visit as an added stress in her life. At the train station, Vronsky, her brother's acquaintance, imagines she will be standoffish and dull, and refers to her as a diva. (p. 59) Her actual entrance shows the reader just how wrong these early speculations were.
Making an Entrance
Anna's demeanor is foreshadowed by a powerful (and sexual) description of her train pulling into the station. "The platform began to tremble, and, puffing steam ... the engine rolled past, with the coupling rod of the middle wheel slowly and rhythmically turning and straightening ... and, after the tender, slowing-down and shaking the platform still more ... finally came the passenger carriages, shuddering to a stop." (p. 60) Anna Karenina will be someone impossible to ignore.
We soon see that despite her status as a princess and a mother, Anna has a hard time controlling herself. Vronsky is instantly mesmerized by her attempt to hide her facial expressions. Anna interacts perfectly with the elderly Countess Vronsky but breaks social decorum upon seeing her brother. She doesn't wait to be helped out of the carriage, but with "resoluteness and grace," throws her arm around his neck and kisses him. (p. 62) Her actions betray her independent spirit.
In the Throes of Family Life
In the Oblonsky household, Anna holds an exalted position as both Stiva's and Dolly's confidant. She counsels Dolly into reconciling with Stiva; her nieces and nephew make a game out of sitting close to her; and Kitty falls under her influence "as young girls are capable of being in love with older married ladies." (p. 71) However, one night with Vronsky exposes Anna as a ball of contradictions.
Slowly, the depth of Anna's character begins to reveal itself. Torn between her growing feelings for Vronsky and what Kitty must think of her, Anna confesses to Dolly that she is leaving Moscow to stop Vronsky from falling in love with her. Secretly excited that he might, her confession wavers in its sincerity—sounding to Dolly like something Stiva's would say. Dolly, who's just recovering from her husband's infidelity, doesn't reprimand Anna—she delights in knowing that Anna has weaknesses of her own.
Conflicted and Confined
On the train ride back to Petersburg, Anna's inner conflict is reflected in a beautiful and terrorizing blizzard. She wrestles with her actions and her guilt, asking herself, "What am I? Myself or someone else?" Through this moment of self-exploration we see that Anna's attraction to Vronsky is part of her desire to live—to be more than she is now. When she risks the snowstorm to step outside and clear her head, she is surprised to find Vronsky on the same train. Although she rejects his advances, she loses herself in "joyful, burning and exciting" reveries about him the rest of the trip. (p. 103)
Despite her torment, Anna's spirit isn't completely broken. When Vronsky and Karenin meet in Petersburg, Anna handles her worlds colliding with a touch of humor. When she looks at her husband's new hair cut she thinks, "Ah, my God! What's happened with his ears?" To protect herself from further indiscretions or temptations, Anna falls back into her role as the dutiful wife and tries to stifle her disappointment with reality. When Karenin comes to her at night saying, "It's time, it's time," she follows him to the bedroom—still thinking about his ears—and Vronsky. Appearances are everything, and at this stage in her journey, Anna will go where she is expected and let her mind do the wandering.
Vronsky's path to love