Leaving the Shtcherbatskys, Levin walks to his brother's lodgings. He thinks how worthless he is, and Kitty is right to prefer Vronsky. He thinks of the ugliness of his brother's life, and how unfair it is for society to judge his outward achievements when his soul is as truthful and as full of goodness as anyone else's.
Thin and emaciated from consumption, Nicolai lives in squalor with his common-law wife, Marya Nicolaevna (Masha), whom he had rescued from a brothel. Finding his brother demoralized by illness, drunkenness, and a life of failure, Levin is too depressed to stay long. He has Masha promise to write him in case of need and takes the first train home, arriving toward evening of the next day.
Catching sight of his waiting coachman at the station, receiving the news of his estate — a cow had calved, the contractor had arrived — Levin feels his confusion and despondency drop away. He resolves to always help his brother, to abandon his dreams of happiness through marriage, and never give way to low passions, memories of which now torture him with unassuageable guilt. Like Dolly caught up in her household, the management of his large estate absorbs Levin's thoughts and temporarily soothes his disappointment.
His house represents his whole world, for here his parents spent their lives and here he and his brother were born. Although his mother died when he was very young, her image is sacred to him, and his future wife must satisfy the holy ideal of woman he conceives in his mother's image. Unlike his friends for whom marriage is merely one of the numerous facts of social life, Levin considers it the chief affair of life, basic to his entire happiness. He has always looked forward to the family he would have, then, secondarily, to the wife.
Sipping a cup of tea that evening, sitting with his faithful housekeeper, Agafea Mihalovna, reading a book, Levin daydreams. He finds all nature in unity and at peace. "One must struggle to live better, much better," he muses, happily concluding that "nothing's amiss, all's well."
These chapters show Levin in his true element. His house, his land, his peasants represent his roots and the source of his nourishment. The happiness Levin feels upon returning to his estate after the suffering experienced in Moscow prefigures the salvation he finds at the end of the novel. Moreover, Levin's return to the country strikes a strong contrast with the events at the ball. This section emphasizes the thematic duality of the novel which unfolds more and more in subsequent parts: Anna and Vronsky and the social milieu of town life, Levin and Kitty and the natural life of the country.