Literature Study GuidesAnna KareninaPart 1 Chapters 6 10 Summary

Anna Karenina | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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Anna Karenina | Part 1, Chapters 6–10 | Summary

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Summary

Thirty-two-year-old Levin arrives in Moscow in Chapter 6 to propose marriage to Kitty, Stiva's sister-in-law. Levin has a long-standing relationship with Kitty's family, the Shcherbatskys, which goes back to his childhood. His own mother died when he was very young, so the Shcherbatskys became a second family for him. He recently courted Kitty for two months, but then left town abruptly, thinking himself an unworthy suitor because he has no fixed position in society. Nevertheless, he has returned to try his luck. Levin is staying with his half-brother, Sergei Ivanovich Koznyshev, a famous writer, who in Chapter 8 asks Levin about his work with the zemstvo, the local administrative council, and is disappointed to hear Levin has resigned. Koznyshev tells Levin that their older brother, Nikolai Levin, an alcoholic who has run through his fortune, is in town but does not want to be bothered. Nonetheless, Levin is determined to see him and gets his address from Koznyshev.

In Chapter 9, Levin leaves his brother to find Kitty at the Zoological Garden, where she regularly skates. When they skate together, he drops a hint about why he has returned to town. Kitty's mother coldly tells him they receive visitors on Thursdays, which means he may visit that night. Stiva then comes to pick up Levin for dinner. Levin mentions in Chapter 10 that Kitty's mother invited him to call half-heartedly. He reveals his intentions to propose, and Stiva encourages him, saying Dolly has predicted that her sister will marry Levin.

Analysis

Although Levin is an acceptable suitor for Kitty, he puts all women on a pedestal, especially the Shcherbatsky women, and most of all, the woman he loves. Moreover, he fears he appears to be a lazy nobleman because he does not have a "job." Stiva is a high-level bureaucrat, for example, and his own brother is a writer. Most noblemen did not actually manage their land but rather left everything in the hands of estate managers. Levin runs his farm and estate and actually does real work, as opposed to the paper-pushing Stiva. His choice of work is idiosyncratic among his peers, and he is something of social outcast to have seriously taken up farming. But Levin's nonconformism is meant to be seen by the reader in a positive light.

Levin's half-brother is a social reformer as well as a writer, so he is disappointed Levin has given up the zemstvo. These rural governing bodies were established in Russia after the serfs were freed in 1861, and their purpose was to provide important services—such as health and education—to the peasantry (rural farm workers, also called muzhiks). Levin has no patience for politics and is too idealistic to put up with the corruption endemic in the zemstvo. Another important theme in the novel is social responsibility, and Tolstoy continually contrasts the views of the two brothers. Koznyshev is a liberal who believes that his class should work for more democracy in Russian governance, while Levin believes he can create reform only within his personal sphere of influence and that the zemstvo is out of his sphere of control.

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