Anna Karenina Part 3, Chapter 11 Summary

Leo Tolstoy

Part 3, Chapter 11 Summary

It is the middle of July, and Levin is paid a visit by the elder of the village nearest his sister’s estate, fifteen miles away from Pokrovskoe, Levin's own estate.  He has come to give a report on how things are going at the sister's estate, particularly the progress of the hay mowing. The primary source of income from Levin’s sister’s estate is haying the meadows. Years before, the peasants bought the hay on three acres of land for a mere twenty roubles. When Levin began managing the estate, he determined this price to be too low and increased the price to twenty-five roubles.

The peasants refused to pay and kept other buyers from purchasing the hay, so Levin made other arrangements to have the hay cut. Again, there was great opposition; however, the task was completed and Levin doubled his profit. Since several years passed with Levin's doing business this way, the peasants' resistance eventually diminished. This year the peasants are doing the mowing for a third of the hay crop, and now the village elder has arrived to deliver some unusual news.

The elder tells Levin that the hay has been cut, and because of the threat of rain, it has already been divided. The peasants asked the counting-clerk to oversee the dividing process. Levin's share, the elder informs him, is eleven stacks of hay. When Levin questions the elder about how much hay was cut, why the counting process was so hurried, and why he was not consulted, the elder’s answers are vague. Levin knows that something is not right. He rides to the village to look into the matter himself.

Arriving at the village, Levin stops at the home of Parmenitch, an old friend, to ask him the truth about the hay. Parmenitch is warm and welcoming. He shows Levin his beekeeping operation, but he is evasive regarding the hay. This confirms Levin’s suspicions, and he goes to the field to examine the haystacks. There he sees that the stacks are not as large as they should be.

Each stack should contain fifty wagon-loads of hay; when he orders that wagons be brought to take one stack to the barn, Levin affirms that it only contains thirty-two loads of hay. A long dispute ensues. The peasants eventually accept eleven smaller stacks for themselves and grant Levin his fair portion. The process takes all afternoon, but Levin is satisfied as he sits and watches the peasants work with the lovely, fragrant hay. In particular, Levin watches his friend’s son, Ivan Parmenov, work with the help of his pretty, young wife of two years. He looks at their obvious love with some envy.