Anna Karenina Part 8, Chapter 19 Summary

Leo Tolstoy

Part 8, Chapter 19 Summary

Alone again, Levin ponders one thing that is still unclear to him. He stops at a window and gazes out at the stars in the cloudless sky; there are flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder in the distance. He thinks again about the question to which he has no answer, though he feels it is already somewhere in his soul. He is a Christian and part of a body of men known as the church, but he wonders about the Jews, Muslims, and Confucians. He wonders if God would deprive these souls of the highest blessing without which life has no meaning.

He ponders for a moment, then realizes he is questioning the relationship of God to all of mankind, but the knowledge he has is revealed to him as an individual; now he is trying to explain that knowledge with reason and words. Just as the early astronomers relied on scientific knowledge but also on their observations, Levin has no right to decide, no possibility of ever deciding, God’s relationship to other religions.

Kitty finds him star-gazing in the hallway on her way to the drawing room, and she looks at Levin intently before asking him if there is something wrong. It is dark, and she would not have been able to see his face well if a flash of lightning had not just then illuminated it for her. In that moment of light, Kitty can see her husband’s face clearly; seeing him calm and happy, she smiles at Levin.

Levin thinks in that moment that his wife understands everything he has been thinking, and he decides to talk with her about it. Just as he is about to begin, Kitty asks him to check on the room she assigned to Sergey Ivanovitch, as it would not be appropriate for her to do so. He kisses her and tells her he will. As they part, Levin decides he had better not speak of his new knowledge to her. It is a secret for him alone, something vital to who he is and something too difficult to express in words.

This new understanding has not changed Levin and made him immediately happy and enlightened, as he had dreamed. And there is no surprise in that for him. He does know it came to him imperceptibly through suffering, and it has “taken firm root in his soul.” Life will go on as always: he will lose his temper, express his opinions tactlessly, maintain a kind of wall between his soul and other people, scold Kitty for his own terrors and then be remorseful for it, fail to understand with his mind why he prays, but pray nevertheless. Now, though, his life will not be meaningless as it was before; now he understands the powerful and positive meaning of goodness.