Anna Karenina Part 7, Chapter 5 Summary
by Leo Tolstoy

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Part 7, Chapter 5 Summary

Levin and Natalia see two interesting performances at the concert. One is a fantasia titled King Lear and the other is a quartet dedicated to the memory of Bach. Both are new and done in the newest style, so Levin is eager to form an opinion of them. After escorting his sister-in-law to her seat, Levin stands against a column and tries to listen as attentively as possible. He tries to eliminate all distractions and merely listen to the music; he does not watch the gesticulating conductor or the great ladies in their fancy bonnets who are undoubtedly thinking of everything except the music. He tries to avoid getting trapped in conversations of any kind and simply looks at the floor in front of him and listens.

The more he listens to King Lear, however, the less he feels able to form a clear opinion of it. While there is a prolonged beginning which is preparation for some kind of emotion, after that the piece seems to follow nothing but the whims of the composer. The sounds are complex but disconnected. This fragmented performance is disappointing and even disagreeable to him, for the emotional peaks and valleys are unexpected and they lead to nothing. Each emotion follows the next without any connection, “like the emotions of a madman.” And, like a madman, these emotions spring up unexpectedly.

When it is over, Levin is exhausted and bewildered by the “fruitless strain” on his attention. The crowd applauds loudly and everyone rises to socialize during the break. Levin is anxious to see what other people think about the performance. He finds several music connoisseurs and joins their conversation. Their conversation is detailed but Levin follows it and even asks a question. He had forgotten that the musical piece was representative of King Lear , and he quickly reads the notes in the program about the Shakespearean play....

(The entire section is 483 words.)