Levin may actually understand how desperate Anna is at this point. Tolstoy creates this heightened moment between Levin and Anna. Boundaries come down—between the two plots, the two souls and the two bodies. This scene is likely to catch readers off guard, much as it throws Levin himself. This is one of those moments in the novel where we have the sense of tremendous energy. It's like when Anna and Vronsky first meet, except that there the energy is largely sexual, whereas here, despite what Kitty tries to tell Levin when he confesses later, I think that there is something other than sexual passion at play between Anna and Levin. So what does Tolstoy do with this energy? He quickly diffuses it. He rips Levin out of Anna's plot and plops him back down in his own.

Once home, he is greeted by reminders of his various familial responsibilities, first and foremost, of course, to his pregnant wife. But Tolstoy can't resist also having Levin get two letters, one about how his crops are doing back on his farm and the other about his sister's business affairs, which he is in charge of. All this is a Tolstoyan reality check: Levin, a married man, about to become a father—Kitty's labor begins that very night—has no business being out keeping company with the likes of Anna. There are other demands on him and her tragedy is not his concern. So much for Levin's compassion! Kitty is convinced that Anna has bewitched him, but the birth of their child reins Levin in. Whatever energies and emotions he can muster should now focus on his son.

All this makes it clear that—at least according to the logic and values of the Levin plot—it was inappropriate for him to pity the likes of Anna Karenina.

How Levin continues Anna's story


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