Literature Study GuidesAnna KareninaPart 3 Chapters 24 32 Summary

Anna Karenina | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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Anna Karenina | Part 3, Chapters 24–32 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 24 moves back to Levin, who is feeling disillusioned about farming, which seems to be a continual struggle between him and his workers, who dislike the improvements brought by new technology. He is also dissatisfied because, even though Kitty is staying with the Oblonskys, he cannot bring himself to visit her. To get away from his preoccupations, Levin leaves to visit his friend Sviyazhsky and hunt snipe. On his way, he stops to eat at a wealthy peasant's farmhouse in Chapter 25 and is impressed with how well the farmer and his family, along with some hired workers, manage the land.

Sviyazhsky is a strong presence in the zemstvo, the reader learns in Chapter 26, and Levin respects him. Many of Sviyazhsky's political opinions, however, contradict his behavior. After hunting and over tea, Levin listens in Chapter 27 to two local landowners discuss how the emancipation of the serfs has ruined farming. Levin believes in developing "relations with the workforce that would make work productive." Sviyazhsky disagrees, saying all forms of possible relations have already been tried. After talking to the other farmers in Chapter 28, Levin feels sure the key is to establish the right kind of relationship with the workers. Sviyazhsky argues that schools are necessary to educate the peasants, but Levin does not think that will raise the level of farming. Fired up by the conversation, he wants to return home to try something new.

When he returns home in Chapter 29, he tells his steward that the peasants can become shareholders in the farming enterprise. Most are suspicious of his motives, but some sign up for the new program. Levin plans in Chapter 30 to write a book about the relationship between the peasants and the land, and decides to go abroad to study farming methods. He delays his trip, however, when his dying brother Nikolai arrives in Chapter 31. Levin's existential terror surfaces, and he thinks, "I work, I want to do something, and I've forgotten that everything will end, that there is – death." In Chapter 32, Nikolai begins to provoke his brother after a few days, and as the argument escalates, he decides to return home. Levin then leaves for Europe.

Analysis

In Levin, Tolstoy works out many of the agro-political arguments common in his day. Levin is continually frustrated by peasants who will not use the modern equipment he purchases, nor carry out his orders to farm more productively using new methods. He is also disgusted with his steward and others who say the peasants are simply lazy. From experience, he knows this is not the case. He disagrees with liberals like Sviyazhsky and his half-brother Koznyshev, who think that if the aristocrats simply finish what they started in freeing the serfs—that is, educate the peasants and provide them with schools, hospitals, and other social services—things will improve, realizing that their vision is idealistic. Levin believes that it is a matter of understanding the particular relationship the Russian peasant has with the land and then building on that knowledge to figure out the best method of farming.

He knows that hired workers, whom most noblemen now need to help farm, are not as reliable or skilled as the people attached to the land. Yet, as he looks at what different people are accomplishing (for example, the prosperous peasant family at the farmhouse), he feels hopeful that there must be a way for him to accomplish his goals. Of course Levin, like the rest of his class, is adjusting to a new order of things, in which people who have been enslaved for centuries are suddenly free but still universally oppressed.

Here is another place in the novel where Tolstoy walks to the edge of the precipice but refuses to look down. The situation in Russia—in which a tiny portion of the population held all of the wealth and the majority of the population lived in hardship to support them—was coming to an end. Tolstoy the artist faithfully represents his country in which a revolution could not be far off. Yet, Tolstoy the gentleman farmer has Levin argue that it is simply a matter of reengineering farming according to the natural rhythms of the peasant worker. The reader should be aware of the artistic and social disjunctions.

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