Part 3, Chapter 12 Summary
When the last load of hay is finally loaded by Ivan Parmenov and his lovely wife, the couple walks the cart to the barn. Around them other men and women work merrily, and the sound of so many women in a “thunder of merriment” soon envelops Levin. He envies their health and happiness and longs to take part in their joy of living. Instead, he is helpless to do anything but watch and listen. When all the peasants finally leave for a time, Levin is left feeling an abject alienation.
Some of those merry peasants had been involved in the arguing and wrangling over the hay, but they are evidently incapable of bearing any grudge and move forward in a sea of “merry common labor.” Levin has often admired their lives; although the peasants' lives are often hard, their labor is their reward. Today for the first time, he realizes, especially as he watches Ivan and his wife, that it is possible for him to exchange his dreary, individual, artificial life for a laborious but socially delightful one.
Levin spends the night in the meadow, unseen by the peasants; he hears their merry reveling all night. In the quiet dawn, he rises from his bed of hay and wonders how to go about changing his life; all of his thoughts center on making a new one.
Levin decides he must renounce his previous life and his “useless education," an act that will be simple and painless for him. He realizes he longs for the simple, pure, and sane life he has observed among the peasants; he is convinced it offers him the contentment, peace, and dignity for which he has been yearning. It is how to effect the changes he so desires that perplexes him. How he is going to transition from nobleman to peasant is something he cannot readily determine. Levin realizes he has not slept most of the night and is not thinking as clearly now as he will later; however, he is certain of one thing:...
(The entire section is 513 words.)