Levin, on two levels, represents that part of Tolstoy’s duality which defines country life as the environment where one may achieve salvation.
On a historic plane, Konstanin Levin speaks for the educated landowners, the backbone of Russian aristocracy in Tolstoy’s terms, who defend the traditional national values. If Russia is to discover her modern destiny in an increasingly westernized world, she must depend on individuals like Levin to maintain a core of national identity. Depending from this source of inner strength, the processes of change and progress will effect a cultural enrichment as Russia carries herself firmly through the flux of history.
On a personal level, Levin represents the individual’s quest for the meaning of life. This is where Tolstoy autobiographically records Levin’s search. Living each moment with great intensity, Levin finds farming, manual work, his relationship with the peasants, a source of satisfaction. He is essentially a realist, not a mystic, and his sense of identity derives from a sensual, tactual communication with the world. Thus we see his feeling of peace after a day’s mowing, and his unrest during political meetings. Though his intense nature seeks definition in love, Levin’s ideal of family happiness represents, not only immortality, but his quest for roots and substantiality.
Corresponding to his profound hunger for reality, death is his greatest threat. Levin finds death a cruel joke if a life of suffering and struggle suddenly ceases to exist, like that of his brother Nicolai. In order to live at all, Levin discovers, he must come to terms with non-living. Anchored to life by his new family, he begins a head-on confrontation with death. Death is merely part of life, Levin concludes; if one lives “for one’s soul” rather than for illusory self-gratification, the end of life is no longer a cruel trick, but a further revelation of life’s truths.
What drives home this truth is Levin’s sincere belief in God, for God is the source of goodness immanent in everyone’s nature. To live without depending on selfish pleasures in order to feel alive, one must act according to this inner goodness. Thus Levin sublimates his selfish demands for love into a generalized love of being, a love of God. The “intoxication with life” which generates his depth and sensitivity, gives way to a “moral intoxication” (to use the term of James T. Farrell). The novel ends on this note of salvation.