As the house is preparing for Anna to leave for Moscow, Karenin’s letter arrives, and Anna is horrified when she reads that he demands that she return to Petersburg and that they lead their life as a married couple. Anna is furious that society will see her as vile and Karenin as noble. She sits at the desk to write a reply, but instead sobs. The footman asks for a reply, but her response is merely that she has received his letter––she says nothing one way or the other. Instead of going to Moscow, Anna decides to visit Princess Betsy, who is throwing a croquet party.
Karenin has tied Anna to himself and to their loveless marriage without divorcing her because he wants to maintain a proper façade in Petersburg society: the most important aspect of the marriage, for Karenin, is its public face, not the private emotions. Anna refuses to acknowledge to Karenin that she is doing something wrong, so she thrusts herself back into society and asserts her freedom in order to push away from his commands.