The country setting in Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina"

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In the novel "Anna Karenin" by Leo Tolstoy, the countryside is a place of peacefulness and satisfaction. Tolstoy uses a country and city setting to establish his point of view through the character Levin, who seems to belong to the countryside. It is idyllic how farmers and agriculture in this novel seem to contribute to one's happiness in life. In the city, life seems rather discontented and unnatural.

The country is often seen as a place of rest and as a cure of the corruptness of the city, by people living in the city. Peasants and people living at the countryside see the country as "the background of life...the scene of labour, of the usefulness of which there could be no doubt." (257). Labour like farming is portrayed to bring the people closer to the soil and to trust in the forces of nature; which results in physical and spiritual contentment.

Tolstoy's thoughts are revealed in the thoughts of Levin, who despises city life and that society, because of their irresponsible lifestyle and their intellectual activities; forgetting about their vital force - their heart, and to choose a path of life. Urban life seems to be rather concerned about intellectual work, than being concerned about the public welfare and the soul. The country life is something special, in how it is connected with nature itself, the source of life. The city life seems to be pretentious and destructive for the society.

Tolstoy writes about the virtues of peasants which Levin admires and respects entirely. The euphoric and peaceful behaviour towards nature gives the impression that peasants are in closer touch with the truths of existence than people living in the city. In the country people are not as unconcerned about morality and one's soul as people in the city; for example, Tolstoy describes the positive characteristics of the peasantry, "the strength, gentleness, and fairness of these men" (257). The peasantry has to dedicate their lives to hard labour for the benefit of all of them. This labour seems to contribute to a good and satisfying life, supporting those characteristics.

For the urban society, the peasantry is a folk which can be observed in conversations and be explained in general conclusions. Tolstoy remarks that this statement is disrespectful, "For him to say that he knew the peasants would have been the same as to say he knew men…he was continually discovering new traits in them and altering his opinions accordingly" (258). While urban people, like Levin's brother think that the peasantry is something "distinct from and opposed to men generally."(258)., the peasantry seems to be rather mysterious for Levin, being so familiar and honest with each other, which makes him feel respectful of and affectionate towards them.

This novel is an introspective example of the contrast between country and city. It is questioning the happiness of intellectual activities and rather respecting the life of the peasantry at the country, a place of virtue and peace. The physical and spiritual satisfaction of the rural society described by Tolstoy, gives the reader an impression of real happiness. Nature is symbolic for freshness, life and peacefulness, which is supported throughout Tolstoy's novel "Anna Karenin". Faith and trust in nature seems to also play a significant role in one's life in the country. Levin's philosophy and thoughts, believe in the hard labour of agriculture and farming as essential for living. Country life is portrayed as satisfying and as the place where people should be, making themselves useful and caring for the public welfare.

Bibliography:Tolstoy, Leo. Anna Karenin. Trans. Rosemary Edmonds. London, England: PenguinClassics, 1954.