Study Guide

Anna Karenina Part 3, Chapter 1

By Leo Tolstoy

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Part 3, Chapter 1

  • Koznyshev decides to spend time with his brother, Levin, in the country as a break from his intellectual pursuits.
  • Levin feels vaguely uncomfortable about this because, while he loves his brother, he hates seeing his brother's attitude towards the countryside.
  • For Levin, the countryside is great because it's a place for work that is unquestionably useful. It's where he lives, it's "a place of life," of joy and of suffering.
  • Also complex is Levin's view of the peasants "as a people." He feels himself to be a part of the peasantry as he is a part of all mankind, and he observes in them many traits he hates, including drunkenness and carelessness.
  • Yet, he cannot say that he either hates or loves the peasantry, because he has a common goal with them. Sometimes they work together effectively and sometimes they don't. He was nursed from a peasant woman and feels, in spite of the fact that he is master of the estate, that he is not separate or apart from the peasants as a class.
  • Koznyshev, on the other hand, loves the countryside because there you "could and should do nothing" (3.1.1). He doesn't think of it as a productive space at all, because he believes that real life takes place in the cities.
  • Similarly, he says he loves the peasants, that he's good at talking to muzhiks and getting to know their real concerns. But for all of his talk about loving peasants, he talks about them only in contrast to the people he knows and does not love. Koznyshev has created a set, unchanging idea of what a peasant is, as distinct from what city folk are, and he won't allow his observations of real peasants to change his mind. Levin is much more flexible.
  • To Koznyshev, Levin's a good kid with his heart in the right place, but his thought is filled with contradictions and irrationalities.
  • To Levin, Koznyshev is a smart guy with great education, but he lacks heart. He may talk big about social reforms, but all of his plans are like a chess game for the "common good"—without anyone's specific needs in mind.
  • Koznyshev is sitting back in "rustic idleness" (3.1.6), and Levin is beginning to find his company boring and distracting. All he can think is that, while he's sitting with his brother, he could be monitoring how his tenants are carting manure to the fields. He's sure that, without his presence, they'll be falling back on inefficient ways. He excuses himself to dash down to the fields and have a look.

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