Anna Karenina Part 3, Chapter 4 Summary

Leo Tolstoy

Part 3, Chapter 4 Summary

While his brother philosophizes, Levin thinks about his long-held plan to mow the hay alongside his peasants. It is an activity he finds both calming and satisfying, but he is hesitant to tell Sergey Ivanovitch of his plan and to leave his brother alone for the long days of work. Finally he realizes he is in such a foul temper that he must do the physical work in order to regain his equilibrium.

That evening, Levin sends word that the mowing will begin tomorrow and asks that his scythe be ready, for he intends to work, too. At tea, Levin tells his brother he will be mowing all day tomorrow with the peasants. Sergey Ivanovitch is rather surprised, asking if Levin can do such intense physical labor and if the peasants laugh secretly at such odd behavior from a gentleman. Levin tells him it is indeed hard work, but one soon gets used to the rhythm of it. He adds that he works too hard to notice what the peasants might think.

The next morning Levin joins the peasants in the field, forty-two of them already swinging their scythes. When they finish their row, the sweaty men grin at the nobleman and prepare to mow the next row. Though Levin is willing and determined, his scythe cuts are not as expert as the other men’s. They talk around him and offer him some good-natured advice. Levin does not speak, but he listens; he makes some adjustments in his swinging technique. The work is grueling. Levin makes it to the end of the first row and knows he can do the rest. The only thing he is unhappy about is the unevenness of his cuts in comparison to the peasants' work, and he determines to improve.

Levin is able to keep pace with the rest of the men, although it is a strain. A brief rain shower cools him off, and soon he realizes there are moments when he absolutely forgets what he is doing; scything feels as natural to him as he supposes it is to the workers. In those moments, his rows are as smooth and perfect as the others’.

When the men finish a row, Levin prepares to start the next, but he is gently reminded that the men have been working for four hours and need to break for lunch. Levin is surprised by the realization. While the men eat in the field, he goes home for lunch. Sergey Ivanovitch has just gotten up. Levin eats and returns to the field before his brother has time to dress and come down to the dining room.