Nevedovsky and many others from the victorious party dine at Vronsky’s that night. Vronsky is very pleased with his own political prowess: every nobleman besides Levin that he has met during the elections has become his ally, and he’s flush with success. All the men—even Sviyazhsky, who has not been elected—are celebratory. The men send celebratory telegrams; Oblonsky sends one to Dolly, whose only thought upon receiving it is to muse ruefully about the telegram’s extravagant cost.
While Levin is a fish out of water in political matters, Oblonsky and Vronsky thrive in this milieu. Vronsky is also thrilled to be operating on his own turf, among men, not hemmed in by Anna. Oblonsky’s greatest talent lies in doing the right thing in society, even if this means doing the wrong thing domestically.
The men prepare to go out for more amusement after dinner. Vronsky’s butler brings in a letter from Anna, which already annoys him, since he knows it will be a message that he should come home. Annie is sick, Anna says in the letter, and she wants Vronsky home at once; she also suggests that she herself could come out to the elections. Vronsky doesn’t want to return to his gloomy home, but he gets on the next train that night.
Vronsky doesn’t even need to read the contents of the letter to know what Anna is communicating—they do, therefore, share a certain bond, but this nonverbal communication is a burden, not a joy, to Vronsky. He doesn’t want to return to the “gloomy, oppressive love,” as Tolstoy puts it. Anna uses their sick daughter as an excuse to force him home. To keep Vronsky for herself, Anna denies him the opportunity to be himself, to do the things he loves to do.