Part 1 section 1: Dolly Oblonsky has discovered an affair between her husband and their former French governess. She declares that she will not live with him anymore and has locked herself in her room. Her husband, Prince Stephen Arkadyevich Oblonsky goes about his normal business for the most part.
Part 1 section 2: Oblonsky does not feel repentant about his affair, as he is a handsome man who is not in love with his wife and the mother of their five living and two dead children. He feels that she really has no right to be carrying on like this. He receives a note saying that his sister, Anna Arkadyevna, is coming for a visit, and he hopes that she will be able to patch things up between he and his wife. He has the valet go and tell his wife that Anna is coming, but she sends down word that she will be going away. The children's nurse encourages Oblonsky to go and talk to Dolly again.
Part 1 section 3: Oblonsky goes into the dining room to have his coffee and read his letters from the office. He thinks about how the sale of a forest on his wife's estate must wait until they are reconciled. He reads the paper and agrees with much of it, because his opinions are the opinions of the majority, and he changes his opinions when the majority changes theirs. After talking to his daughter and taking care of some more business, he decides that he must go and talk to his wife.
Part 1 section 4: Dolly is trying to pack her children's' clothes so that they can go away, but she is not making any progress. She keeps saying that she will leave her husband, but she realizes that this is impossible because she could not get out of the habit of loving him. When she sees him she realizes that he is happy and contented while she is miserable. He tells her that Anna is coming, and she replies that she cannot receive her. He asks her to forgive him. When he is gone, Dolly thinks again that they cannot be reconciled and must leave, but soon the servants come to ask her questions about the children and the housekeeping, and she resumes her daily tasks.
Part 1 section 5: Oblonsky is liked by everyone who knows him, and it seems as if half of Moscow and half of Petersburg are either his relations or friends. Anna's husband, Alexis Alexandrovich Karenin, helped him to obtain his post as head of one of the Government Boards of Moscow. Oblonsky arrives at his office and works, and when they break for lunch, Levin, a friend of Oblonsky's, is there to see him. The two have many differences and disagree on many issues, but they retain their friendship because they have been friends for so long. Levin tells Oblonsky that he is no longer a member of the Zemstvo (a country government organization) as he feels that it gets nothing done. Levin asks Oblonsky what the Shcherbatskys are doing. Oblonsky knows that Levin is in love with Kitty Shcherbatsky, his sister-in-law. Oblonsky is interrupted with work, and Levin tells him that he does not understand and could not do his work there. Oblonsky tells him that Kitty will be skating that day, and they decide to meet later for dinner.
Part 1 section 6: Levin has come to town to propose to Kitty. He had been a good friend of Dolly's and Kitty's brother before he died, and has seen the women since they were small. Levin had spent two months in Moscow earlier, and was near Kitty very much, but he left when he convinced himself that she could not love him. But after spending two months alone in the country on his farm, he realizes he must come back and try for her hand.
Part 1 section 7: Levin is staying at the house of his half-brother Koznyshev. He goes to talk to him, but a philosophy professor is there. He sits and listens to their conversation a bit and tries to join, but when his participation is virtually passed over he stops listening.
Part 1 section 8: The man leaves, and Levin is able to talk to his brother. He had made up his mind to talk to him about Kitty, but after the conversation he decides not to. Koznyshev asks him about the Zemstvo, and Levin tells him that he is no longer a member. Koznyshev tells him that their brother Nicholas is in Moscow, and then is sorry he did because it upsets Levin. Nicholas is a ruined man who squandered his fortune and mixed with bad society. He shows Levin a letter he had received from him. It says: "I humbly beg you to leave me alone. That is all I demand of my dear brothers.-Nicholas Levin" (26). Levin decides to go and visit his brother as soon as he settles things with Kitty.
Part 1 section 9: Levin goes to the skating rink to see Kitty, and cannot stay calm once he sees her. He goes up and talks to her cousin, and she soon skates up. He tells her that she is a good skater, and she replies that he is the best, and that they should skate together. Levin is quite excited and goes to rent some skates. They skate together, and when Kitty asks how long he will be in Moscow, he replies that it depends on her, and she gets uncomfortable. She realizes that she has great feelings for Levin, but that he is not the man she loves.
Part 1 section 10: Levin goes to dinner with Oblonsky and is uncomfortable in the restaurant with its private rooms, fancy food and extravagance. They talk about why Levin is in Moscow, and Oblonsky says that there is nothing he would like better than for him to marry Kitty. Levin tells Oblonsky that he feels bad about the sins with women in his past.
Part 1 section 11: Oblonsky tells Levin that there is a rival for Kitty, an officer named Vronsky. He says that he had arrived soon after Levin left before and is in love with Kitty. Levin turns pale, and Oblonsky advises him to ask Kitty to marry him soon. Oblonsky tries to talk to Levin about his affairs, but Levin says that he could not comprehend being fascinated by a woman other than his wife.
Part 1 section 12: This is Kitty's first season out, and she has had good success in Society, with first Levin and then Vronsky paying her attentions. Her father wishes her to marry Levin, but her mother thinks that Vronsky is the better man.