Summary and Analysis
While Oblonsky goes to Petersburg on business, Dolly and her six children move to the country estate at Yergushovo which was part of her dowry. By moving out of Moscow, she avoids the pressing bills of the tradesman which lack of funds prevent her from paying, and her children completely recuperate from their various winter illnesses. Now that her husband no longer loves her, Dolly finds her greatest life pleasure through her children. Meeting Dolly and the youngsters returning from church one morning, Levin exclaims she appeared as "a hen with her chicks" and admires this group of an ideal family. Hearing that Kitty will spend the summer with her sister, he blushes and falls silent. Later he tells Dolly he will not call on her, since Kitty's refusal was final, and any mention of the matter is only a source of pain.
One day in July, Levin drives to the village on his sister's estate to supervise the division of the hay harvest. When it is satisfactorily apportioned, he sits on a haycock to observe the meadow teeming with brightly clad peasants. A young peasant lad loading hay with his pretty bride catches his attention. As the young couple laugh together, he is struck by the strong, young, freshly awakened love which shows in their faces.
Engulfed in this sea of cheerful toil the idea enters his mind that he could, if he wanted to, renounce his artificial, selfish existence with its utterly useless education for this busy, honorable life of simple toil. Deep in thought, Levin leaves the meadow while a chilling night breeze springs up. As a four-in-hand drives by, he sees the serene, thoughtful expression of a girl's face in the window, and then Kitty's candid eyes fall on him. Her face lights up with wonder and surprise, but she does not look out again. As the carriage passes and daylight brightens the sky, Levin makes his decision. "No," he says, "However good that simple life of toil may be, I cannot go back to it, I love her."
Just as Kitty discovered she could not be untrue to her inner nature, Levin realizes he must follow his destiny. Despite the temptations of the agreeable, natural life of his peasants, he resignedly concludes that he must first find truth and meaning within the bounds of his given nature. As Kitty passes by on her way to Dolly's estate, Levin recognizes his commitment to the life he now leads. Before he can change his career, he must first wrestle with his present way of life and discover its basic values. Thus, on an individual level, Tolstoy shows how Levin struggles for meaning within the bounds of his own "historical necessity."