Trapped with her own morbid thoughts, she begins to regret listening to Anna's advice because it may have cost her the chance to love and be loved in a real way. Seeing herself as Anna's equal, Dolly borrows the details of Anna's love affair with Vronsky and imagines a parallel love affair of her own. "Weary of the monotony of a moral life, ... she not only excused criminal love from a distance, she even envied it." (p. 621) She counts her perspective suitors: Turovtstyn (who helped nurse her children when they had scarlet fever), Sergei (Levin's brother who was merely "amiable" to her), and a young man that Stiva told her thought she was beautiful. (p. 608)
The Secret of Motherhood
The reality of Anna's lifestyle turns out to be a disappointment for Dolly. She is uncomfortable with Vronsky's candid conversation, ill-at-ease with the maids, and, by the end of the first night, she has grown to dislike the playful banter between Anna and Vasenka she initially found flattering. Out of step in Anna's world, Dolly decides to cut her visit short. "Those painful cares of motherhood that she had hated so on her way there, now, after a day spent without them, presented themselves to her in a different light and drew her to them." (p. 635)
Already disillusioned by her foray into the unknown, Dolly is completely caught off-guard by Anna's late night confessional: "I won't have any more children. I won't, because I don't want it." (p. 637) Instead of becoming ill and pregnant with unfortunate children—Dolly's own fear—Anna has decided to be a beautiful companion to Vronsky for as long as he'll have her. Dolly is horrified by a seemingly simple solution to a complicated problem, and her admiration of Anna comes to an end. Dolly cannot imagine her life would be better without any one of her children, nor can she imagine that if Anna's beauty is what "attracts and keeps" Vronsky now that he won't eventually seek out another beauty. (p. 638) Though Dolly said she'd always love Anna as her best friend, she has never felt further away from her than she does as their visit ends.
Yet there is still light at the end of Dolly's tunnel. She uses her gift for storytelling to tell everyone about how wonderful her visit with the Vronskys was "with perfect sincerity, forgetting the vague sense of dissatisfaction and discomfort she had experienced there." (p. 642) Is Dolly putting up another brave front for her family? Will she turn her back on Anna? Has she given up her dreams of real love?
Anna's final journey