Sunday, March 11, 2012

Levin: Unstable and Unreal

     Levin seems to be an incredibly bipolar character. He bounces from elation and pure bliss to despair and depression almost instantly, with the tiniest of conflicts tipping him one way or another. While reading about his emotional swings, on one hand I sympathize with his feelings--he usually seems to have a (at least partially) legitimate reason for being upset, but he always lets himself dramatize the situation in his head until he is no longer upset by a real event but rather an escalated, dramatized version of the event that he created in his head.

     Reading this, I wonder where this is going. Is he going to snap? Frankly, I was surprised that everyone made it through that hunting expedition alive. I was half expecting him to kill Veslovsky. Do you think that Levin will lose his temper and do something stupid? Or do you think he will gain control of his emotions and pull himself together eventually?

    Additionally, I wonder why Tolstoy makes Levin, the character that transparently represents Tolstoy himself, this crazy. So far, I think Levin is the only character in this book that is so utterly ridiculous that I can't picture his character as a real person. It seems strange that his character is so unbelievable when he is actually the character who is clearly modeled after a real person.


  1. I actually don't find Levin or his thought processes to be that unbelievable. If he were a real person, I wouldn't be surprised if he found himself diagnosed with a mild anxiety disorder, though.

    Though I really want his and Kitty's marriage to work out, I'm also worried he's going to snap. He and Kitty seem to be pretty good at working out his insecurities, but I think he's going to go too far if he keeps assuming the worst of her like he did with Veslovsky.

  2. I, just like Shannon, find Levin fairly believable albeit not always predictable. Indeed, his insecurity and resulting anxiety may not lead to goal driven, purposful behavior. He seems to be a good candidate to lose his temper and do something stupid, but then is that so unusual? Generally, Slavic people are a bit more emotional and transparent than Anglo-Saxon people, but that does not make them crazy. Maybe then I would charcterize Levin as a bit more colorful?

  3. Colorful haha, Petar, I like that.

    When I think of Levin or try my best to hear Tolstoy through the writing, I think of someone searching. They're not quite sure what they are searching for (until the end), but they seem terribly invigorated by the search. Raskalnikov does this as well. As face-value, yes it appears erratic and perhaps "crazy" but that's the whole question: is he crazy or is everyone else, who isn't reckoning with the larger questions of living, the crazy ones? Consider pg. 786, amidst Levin's revelation, Tolstoy writes, "What amazed and upset him most of all was that the majority of people his age and circle... did not see anything wrong with it and were perfectly clam and content... Are these people sincere? Are they not pretending?"

    I happen to agree with Levin (and Tolstoy) that most people are not thinking, questioning, and admiring all the questions Levin struggles with. His emotional back and forths are in some sense necessary to come to the understanding he finds at the end of the book.