In the suspended condition of awaiting divorce, Anna and Vronsky find their relationship at a standstill. Both are irritable with each other: Anna feels his love is cooling, Vronsky is reproachful that instead of her trying to ease this position he placed himself in for her sake, Anna makes it harder to bear. Without discussing their problem, each seizes every opportunity to prove the other one wrong. Faced with his declining love, Anna assumes his affections belong to someone else. Her jealousy makes her quarrelsome although Vronsky remains faithful. Despite the bitterness, they enjoy brief moments of tenderness.
Their last quarrel begins when Vronsky puts off their journey back to the country because he must see his mother about some property. Anna refuses to let him go, assuming Vronsky wants to visit the attractive Princess Sorokin who lives with the old countess. “You will be sorry for this,” she threatens as Vronsky steps into the carriage. Immediately regretful, Anna dispatches a servant with a note begging Vronsky to come back and talk things over. When the note misses him, she writes a telegram to him at his mother’s home, and the suspense of waiting makes her desperate. Anna decides to seek Dolly for comfort and advice. Her thoughts during the drive are bitter and distracted. What a dreary business love is, she thinks. She has lost Seriozha and now Vronsky.
Dolly’s hall porter informs Anna that Kitty is here, and she is immediately jealous of Vronsky’s former love. Unwilling to meet her at first, Kitty’s hostility vanishes when she sees “Anna’s dear lovely face” again. The three women chat about the baby until Anna, rising, announces she has come to say good-bye, for they are to leave Moscow soon. Smiling, Anna expresses gladness at having seen Kitty again, she has heard so much about her, even from her husband. “He came to see me and I liked him very much,” adds Anna with obvious ill intent. Dolly later remarks she has never seen Anna in “such a strange and irritable mood.”
Feeling worse than before, conscious of “having been affronted and rejected” by Kitty, Anna feels that all human relationships are based on hate. At home, she reads a telegram from Vronsky: “I cannot return before ten,” She would try to meet him at the railway station, she decides; if he is not there, she would go to his country home. In consequence of the scene there, she vaguely considers, she would take the train along the Nizhny line and stop at the first town she comes to. On the way to the station, her impressions crowd her mind — Kitty, Vronsky’s cooled passions, her son. First we were irresistibly drawn together, and now we are irresistibly drawn apart, she thinks. My love grows more passionate and selfish while his is dying. It is not jealousy that makes me hateful but my unsatisfaction. As I demand that he give himself entirely up to me, he wants to get further and further from me. I know he is always faithful, but I want his love, not his kindness inspired by a sense of duty. That is much worse than having him hate me. Where love dies, hate begins. Anna glances at the houses she passes, where live people and “more people, and all hating each other.” Would things change if she gained her divorce, Anna wonders, and concludes “No.” That would not bring them happiness, just “absence of torment.” I cause his unhappiness and he mine, she thinks. “Life is sundering us.” Love is transient, but hate is everywhere. She loved Seriozha, but exchanged him for another love and did not complain “while this other love satisfied her.
Alighting at the station, Anna takes her place in the corner of the train to avoid other people. A porter brings a note from Vronsky saying he is “very sorry” to miss her note but will return at ten. “No. I won’t let you torture me,” Anna thinks, her words addressed not to Vronsky but to the “powers that made her suffer.” At the next station she walks to the edge of the platform in a daze. As a freight train approaches, Anna ducks her head and hurls herself directly under the wheels of the second car. “And the candle by which she had been reading the book filled with trouble and deceit, sorrow and evil, flared up with a brighter light, illuminating for her everything that before had been enshrouded in darkness, flickered, grew dim, and went out forever.”
As Anna, in her long soliloquy, traces the career which drives her to suicide, she reaches the same conclusion that Tolstoy mentions in My Confessions. “It is possible to live only as long as life intoxicates us”: He writes, “as soon as we are sober again we see that it is all a delusion, a stupid delusion.” “Love” is the implicit idea in the term “life intoxication;” when Anna finds her love turned to hate, her life becomes a “stupid delusion” and death provides the only alternative. As spontaneously and naturally as Anna once confronted her love, she now accepts death. Always accepting full responsibility for her actions, Anna’s suicide is an affirmation of her deep commitment to life. That death is the final truth of her career is expressed by Tolstoy’s analogy of Anna’s lighted candle which illuminates her life even while she extinguishes the light.