So much for action. Part III was devoid of any action, any movement. It was all about transitions. Levin lulls in the country, trying not to brood over Kitty while he pours his energy into farming. Anna deals with the consequences of having told her husband of her affair with Vronsky.
Anna Karenina is not a difficult read. It is quite simple, even light. But it is a long read. It is layered and detailed. Tolstoy has set Anna’s adultery among Kitty’s self-development, Levin’s agricultural experiments, and her own brother Stiva’s adultery and marital woes for good reason: to compare and contrast the relationships of those in 19th century Russian society with the society itself. How does the society affect the relationships, for good or bad?
“The longer Levin mowed, the oftener he felt the moments of unconsciousness in which it seemed that the scythe was mowing by itself, a body full of life and consciousness of its own, and as though by magic, without thinking of it, the work turned out regular and precise by itself. These were the most blissful moments.”
Levin’s attempts to live closer to nature, his rapture in hard physical labour can be compared to the affair of Anna and Vronsky. The resistance of the peasants to his techniques, and of others in the noble class to his ideals are similar to the resistance of society to Anna and Vronsky’s relationship.
The layers are and metaphors are obvious, and upon reflection, add much to the story and its interpretation. Yet, it cannot be denied that they are boring as heck to read. At least in Parts I and II, the reflections on Russian society were woven into the narrative, and as a part of the story they were interesting bits of added detail and character. In Part III, they were the story. I don’t know about the rest of you, but 15-20 chapters on Russian agriculture just doesn’t excite me.
“I want you not to meet that man here, and to conduct yourself so that neither the world nor the servants can reproach you…not to see him. That’s not much, I think. And in return you will enjoy all the privileges of a faithful wife without fulfilling her duties. That’s all I have to say to you.”
Still, there was some movement near the end. Anna is back home with Karenin, who is determined that she will live with him as if nothing happened and never see Vronsky again. Levin has seen Kitty, and while we don’t yet know how it will happen, he has admitted to himself that she is the only one he will marry, and so we can assume there will be more of this relationship to come in Part IV. And hopefully, as a result, less detail of his life as a farmer.