Part 3, Chapter 5 Summary
In the afternoon, Levin mows between an old man and a young man. The old man makes the mowing seem as effortless as walking, and the young man smiles whenever anyone looks his way, never admitting how hard the job is for him. As he works between these two men, Levin revels in the sweat that eventually cools him and the sun that gives him the energy to continue. More often than before, he feels as if swinging the scythe is as natural and effortless to him as it is to the experienced mowers; the longer he mows, the more he experiences these unconscious moments. When he looks back, his rows are perfectly cut, and he feels positively blissful.
The most difficult task for Levin is mowing around obstacles in the field. The old man, however, is not deterred by them. He flings away a snake and a twig, examines a quail’s nest, and picks a wild blueberry to eat—while never breaking his stride. Both Levin and the young man have difficulty just watching their surroundings while keeping the easy rhythm of the scythe.
Time passes, but Levin does not know how slowly or how quickly. Children begin to appear in all directions, carrying bags of dinner and pitchers of drink for their fathers. The crew mows two more rows before they break for dinner. The men cluster into groups and eat with their friends while their children sit and wait. Instead of going home to eat, Levin sits down with some of them.
The line of distinction between nobleman and laborer had been erased earlier in the day, and the old man shares his humble meal with Levin, who appreciates it and eats it eagerly. After a nap, with a rock for a pillow, Levin is amazed by how much he and his crew have accomplished; it is an exceptional amount of work compared to that of other seasons and other workers. Nothing looks the same as it did that morning, for the tall grass had hidden the view of the river. Now the sun is shimmering off the water and the sweet-smelling mown grass. Levin is moved by the sight and longs only to keep working and get as much mowing done as possible.
He asks if the men are willing to cut Mashkin Upland, as well, as there is still sun by which to work. With the incentive of a little vodka for their extra effort, the men rouse themselves and go to work in the second meadow. Levin again works between the old man and the young man, and the crew moves swiftly through this field. The scythes cut many mushrooms which have grown in the tall grass; the old man is skilled enough to scoop those in his path and tuck them into his shirt without breaking stride. This is an easy field to mow, but Levin is exhausted by the time they finish.