Anna Karenina Part 8, Chapter 13 Summary
by Leo Tolstoy

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Part 8, Chapter 13 Summary

Levin thinks about a scene he recently witnessed between Dolly and her children. The children were cooking berries in teacups over candles and squirting milk into each other’s mouths with a syringe. Dolly scolded them with a typical lecture about wastefulness, ending with the fact that, if they continued such behavior, they would have nothing to eat or eat with one day.

Levin had been struck by the children’s “weary incredulity” as they listened to their mother; they simply wanted to continue their amusing play and were annoyed that their mother had interrupted them. The children did not believe what Dolly was telling them; in fact, they could not believe it, for they could not understand the enormity of the thought that what they were destroying was the very thing that allowed them to live.

This is the same thing all humans do, thinks Levin—taking for granted things that have always been and always will be. They try to invent new things, things that are fun, like cooking berries over a flame or drinking milk through a syringe—and they are not a bit worse off than if they drank out of cups.

Man is always searching for such things in philosophy; but if children had to get along by themselves, make the crockery and milk the cow for example, they would starve. It is just the same if man is left to his own passions and thoughts, without any concept of God, creation, or morality. Nothing life-giving can be built without those ideas.

Levin then wonders where he got the peaceful knowledge that has brought joy to his soul. He was brought up on such principles but, like the children, did not understand them and tried to destroy them. Then, when the important moment in life came, Levin was like the children who were cold and hungry and had no other place to turn but to God. Now he feels even worse than the children who were scolded by their mother and feels as though his “childish efforts at wanton madness” are held against him.

His thoughts then turn to the...

(The entire section is 542 words.)