Part 6, Chapter 3 Summary
Kitty is glad to have an opportunity to talk with her husband privately, as she had seen his face when he realized the women on the terrace were talking about something they did not want him to hear. Levin has already forgotten the incident and is simply enjoying the walk with his wife. The thought of her approaching motherhood is never far from his mind, and he only wants to hear her talk; there is a new softness and seriousness in her voice, as if she is always concentrating on “some cherished pursuit.”
Kitty tells him she loves her family but misses the quiet evenings they spent by the fire last winter. Both are content at this moment, though, and Kitty broaches the subject of the earlier uncomfortable moment. She tells him they were talking about how men made offers to women, but Levin is listening more to the tone of her voice than to her words. When she asks him what he thinks about a possible match between his brother and Varenka, Levin smiles and says he has never understood his brother when it comes to women. Though he may fancy Varenka, Sergey Ivanovitch is primarily a spiritual person and would perhaps be unable to reconcile himself with actual fact—and Varenka is an actual fact. Levin knows Kitty will understand his meaning, and she does. Kitty reminds him that she has much more actual fact about her than Varenka, and his brother would never have chosen her. Varenka, on the other hand, is “altogether spiritual.” Levin agrees that his wife had a much closer connection to his other brother, Nikolay, and wonders why they do not talk of him more often.
Though Sergey Ivanovitch may not have the weakness he needs to be able to fall in love, Levin has always thought his brother is a better man than he. Sergey Ivanovitch is subordinated to his duty; he does not live for himself and he is content. Kitty smiles, for she knows her husband is not quite sincere. While he loves his brother, Levin is as content, if not more content, than Sergey Ivanovitch.
Kitty reminds Levin that he, too, lives a life of service to others. He has created a cooperative settlement, he maintains an estate on which others make their livelihoods, and he is writing a revolutionary book. While her faith in him delights him, Levin admits he does all of those things half-heartedly, for all he really cares about is her. He does not want to change places with his brother, but his single-mindedness makes him less admirable in his own eyes. They tease about whether Varenka will be a married woman soon. When their small carriage comes by, Kitty decides to keep walking with her husband.