Part 3, Chapter 29 Summary
Carrying out Levin’s plan to revolutionize his system of farming is difficult, but he continues struggling until he achieves a result which is not astounding but is enough for him to believe it is worth the trouble. One of the major difficulties is that he does not have the luxury of stopping everything and restarting the entire process. He will have to “mend the machine” while it is in motion.
On the evening he arrives home, Levin informs his bailiff of his plan and is met with great and visible agreement that the current system is broken and must be fixed. When Levin outlines his plan for laborers to become shareholders, however, the bailiff looks despondent and offers no definite opinion before changing the subject and making it clear that this is not the time for such a discussion.
Levin encounters the same reluctance among the laborers, as they are too absorbed in their work to spend time considering the idea. Ivan the cowherd is in favor of the plan until Levin begins talking about all the future benefits of it; then the peasant immediately begins doing any task he can find.
Another difficulty Levin encounters is the peasants’ lack of trust that a landowner would do anything for them without the ulterior motive of working them even harder. They are convinced that Levin has other goals which he has not told them, and they express their unalterable position that they will not be forced to use any new methods or implements to do their work. They even agree with him that these methods and equipment are easier and more efficient; however, they are adamant and Levin is forced, regretfully, to give up some of the improved methods. Nevertheless, Levin prevails despite these difficulties and by autumn he has a moderately reformed working system.
Levin divides some of his land into three parcels and chooses several peasants who then gather workers (made up primarily of family and friends), and they become Levin’s partner for that parcel of land. The rest of the farm is run in the old way, but these three associated partnerships are the first step to a greater change. This process has been consuming, and it is not a complete success; however, he still sees what he has done as an accomplishment.
When he is not dealing with these matters, Levin is inside working on his book. The Oblonskys return to Moscow at the end of the summer, and by then Levin has read all the books he borrowed from Sviazhsky. Nothing he reads talks about a system such as he envisions, and Levin is convinced Russia has “millions of hands and millions of acres” which can be made more productive for the benefit of the entire country. He plans to prove it in his book and will travel abroad this autumn to observe other places and systems.