Anna Karenina Part 3, Chapter 1 Summary

Leo Tolstoy

Part 3, Chapter 1 Summary

In need of a vacation, Sergey Ivanovitch Koznishev goes to visit his half-brother in the country, for he believes the best sort of life is the country life. Levin is glad to see him, especially since his brother Nikolay will not be visiting this summer. However, despite his respect and love for Sergey Ivanovitch, having him visit in the country makes Levin nervous.

The two men see the country and its inhabitants in completely different ways. To Sergey Ivanovitch, the country is a place where he can escape the “corrupt influences” of life in the city, as well as rest from the rigors of working. It is a particularly good place for him because he can do nothing and feel no pangs of conscience for his idleness. To Levin, on the other hand, the country offers more than pleasure; it is a place of utility and usefulness, labor and accomplishments.

Because he comes to the country as a kind of tourist seeking refuge and relaxation, Sergey Ivanovitch also views the peasants differently. Sergey Ivanovitch claims to know and like the peasants, something he is free to do because he is with them so little. He shares pleasant conversation with some of them and assumes that he knows them and that they are a favorable people.

Levin, on the other hand, sees the peasants as "the chief partner in their common labor,” and though he has respect and feels kinship with them, he cannot overlook their faults because they have a direct impact on his productivity. While he appreciates the peasants' vigor, gentleness, and sense of justice, he is equally exasperated by their carelessness, drunkenness, and lying.

In every discussion the brothers have about the peasantry, Sergey Ivanovitch prevails because his view is quite clear and focused, while Levin’s views change based on his current dealings with the peasants. Sergey Ivanovitch thinks his brother’s “heart is in the right place,” but he believes Levin is influenced too much by his impressions of the moment and thus is filled with contradictions. In the condescending manner of an older brother, Sergey Ivanovitch tries to show his younger brother the flaws in his thinking; however, he finds little satisfaction in the endeavor because the argument is too easy and obvious.

Levin respects Sergey Ivanovitch, but the older Levin gets the more he understands that his brother’s tendencies to work for the public good are actually a reflection of his personal failing. In working for the good of others, Sergey Ivanovitch has demonstrated an inability to choose one person for whom to care and love.

Finally, Levin is uneasy with his brother's presence. Levin's summer days are barely long enough to accomplish his tasks, while Sergey Ivanovitch spends his days thinking and then wants someone with whom to talk through his many ideas. Levin grows impatient as his brother speaks of inanities, and the peasants are not doing the farm work properly without his supervision; therefore, he sneaks away whenever he can.