Anna Karenina Part 8, Chapter 16 Summary
by Leo Tolstoy

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Part 8, Chapter 16 Summary

Sergey Ivanovitch is a practiced debater, and he turns the conversation to another aspect of the discussion on whether or not the Russian people should be involved in the Serbian war. He agrees that there is no mathematical computation which will accurately reveal the will of the people in this matter, but there are other ways of discerning the people’s will. When every facet of society, when every intellect speaks the same thing, the current carries the country in one direction and toward one goal.

The old prince is not convinced and says that the papers may all say the same thing, but so do all frogs croak before a storm, drowning out all other sounds. Sergey Ivanovitch ignores the old man and tells Levin that he was referring to the unanimous views of the intellectual world. In response, the prince quotes Alphonse Karr who said something profound before the Prussian War: if the war is inevitable, as everyone seems to think, let all the advocates of war be enrolled in a special regiment of advance guards to lead every attack.

Some in the room laugh at the image, but Levin does not see the joke and diagrees until Sergey Ivanovitch interrupts him to defend the intellectuals. Everyone must use the specific gifts they have been given to do their own “special work,” and Sergey Ivanovitch lauds those who are ready to sacrifice themselves for their oppressed brethren. Levin argues that this war is not just sacrifice; it is also murder. People may be ready to make sacrifices for their souls but not for murder.

Levin’s use of the word soul catches Katavasov’s attention, and he teases Levin about a natural science man using such a word and asks him to define it. Sergey Ivanovitch joins the good-natured attack by quoting the scripture in which Christ says he does not bring peace, but a sword. Levin is chagrined that he has allowed himself to be drawn into an argument he does not want to have. He knows that he fights naked while his two guests wear impenetrable armor.

What these two men advocate is the same pride of intellect which had almost caused his own...

(The entire section is 554 words.)