Oblonsky turns the subject to Anna and the divorce. Karenin says that he thought the matter was closed, since he refused to grant Anna custody of their son in a divorce. Oblonsky says that Anna feels suspended between life and death and that she no longer demands custody of Seryozha. Oblonsky begs Karenin to take pity on Anna and brings up Karenin’s sense of Christian magnanimity. Karenin says he will give an answer by the day after tomorrow.
Oblonsky, ever the social manipulator, has arranged his visit in Petersburg to kill two birds with one stone: talking to Karenin will help advance his political career and get him the money he needs because he is so wasteful, and he can use the excuse to help smooth over his own troubles with Dolly by helping her help Anna. Karenin has no interest in opening up the issue with Anna, since his only concern is his political reputation and maintaining his social position––Anna is already out of his life––but Oblonsky’s appeal to Karenin’s Christianity does hit Karenin’s Achilles’s heel.