HomeLiterature Study GuidesAnna KareninaPart 3 Chapters 1 5 Summary

Anna Karenina | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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Anna Karenina | Part 3, Chapters 1–5 | Summary

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Summary

In Chapter 1, Levin's elder half-brother, Koznyshev, visits him in the country, and although Levin is happy to see him, he also feels somewhat uncomfortable when his brother is around. Whereas for Levin, farming—which involves an intimate relationship with the peasantry and the land—is a natural way of life, for Koznyshev, it is a refuge, a place to hide from life's crueler truths. He idealizes the peasants and claims to love them, while Levin looks upon them as people with both good and bad qualities. Koznyshev also takes Levin away from his work.

In Chapter 2 Levin frets about the unmown grass, while Koznyshev waxes poetic about the beauties of nature. While they are fishing in Chapter 3, Koznyshev once again brings up the zemstvo and faults his brother for not being involved in civic life. Koznyshev believes in working for "the common good," but Levin sees no benefit for himself in participating in the zemstvo. Feeling a need to calm himself and knowing that physical activity is a good remedy, Levin decides to mow with the peasants in Chapter 4. At first, he has difficulty keeping up with them, but soon he loses all awareness of time and self in the grassy fields. "The longer Levin mowed, the more often he felt those moments of oblivion during which it was no longer his arms that swung the scythe, but the scythe itself that lent motion to his whole body, full of life and conscious of itself" (Chapter 5). At dinnertime, Levin eats with the peasants.

Analysis

These chapters contrast Levin and Koznyshev. Levin lives from his heart and can do good only as it practically pertains to himself and the people he is directly involved with. Koznyshev, on the other hand, lives from the head and rationally determines how he should act for the common good. "I think ... no activity can be solid unless it's based on personal interest," Levin says to his brother. Koznyshev responds that "only those nations can be historical, that have a sense of what is important and significant in their institutions, and value them." Koznyshev and Levin both supported the emancipation of the peasants, but for different reasons. While Koznyshev continues to work to reform Russia, Levin has no interest in politics. He is more interested in cultivating the land and those who live on it.

Levin experiences frustration over irreconcilable differences between himself and his half-brother, so he decides to mow with the peasants again, an activity in which grass is cut across a wide acreage and then dried as hay to feed the animals. At first, Levin is awkward in handling the scythe, but once he gets into the rhythm of the task he experiences what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi calls "flow," a state of complete absorption in which a person immersed in a task loses self-consciousness and remains in the present moment. The state of flow is pleasant and often blissful. The narrator says Levin "forgot what he was doing and began to feel light, and in those moments his swath came out as even and good as Titus's."

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