Part 1, Chapter 24 Summary
As he leaves the Shtcherbatskys’ and walks toward his brother’s house, Levin thinks there is something hateful and repulsive in him since he does not get along well with other people. It is clear he has no pride; if he did, he would not have subjected himself to a humiliation such as he suffered earlier this evening. He berates himself, believing no one would ever choose him over a man like Vronsky, and is angry at himself for ignoring his brother tonight just so he could make this social call. Levin calls for a sledge and gives the driver Nikolay’s address.
On the way to his brother’s house, Levin remembers Nikolay as he was in college, living like a monk and renouncing all forms of pleasure, despite the jeering of his companions. A year after university, Nikolay changed dramatically and all his pent up passions were loosed. His actions after that were shameful and degrading. To those who did not know his story, Nikolay’s behavior was disgusting; but Levin knows his brother’s heart and his story.
Levin remembers everyone, including himself, turning away from Nikolay when he was trying to control his passionate temperament. When Nikolay had broken free of his monastic life, no one, including Levin himself, tried to help him. Levin believes his brother, deep in his soul, is no worse than those who have despised him over the years and he has always wanted to be good. Tonight Levin will make Nikolay listen to him and will make him understand that he loves and understands him.
Inside Nokolay’s smoke-filled apartment are several strangers to Levin, but he hears his brother’s hacking cough and knows he is here. When Nikolay finally appears, Levin is appalled at how gaunt and stooped he looks in his sickliness. He is familiar to Levin, even in his weirdness and despite the fact that he has not seen Nikolay in three years.
For just a moment, Nikolay’s eyes light up with joy, but then he quickly reverts to his familiar wild, cruel expression. It is an awful look on his emaciated face. When Nikolay asks why he is here, Levin timidly says he simply came to see him and does not want anything. This attitude clearly softens Nikolay and he explains his companions to Levin. Kritsky is his friend from Kiev; he was expelled from university for starting a benefit society for poor students and was then a teacher in a peasant school and was again persecuted for some other thing.
A woman he calls “Masha” is Marya Nikolaevna, someone Nikolay took out of a “bad house” and whom Nikolay now calls his wife. If people want to know him, they must accept her or leave. Levin does not leave, and Nikolay orders Masha to bring three dinners.