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Friday, June 17, 2011

The Spring of Life

Spring Time by RJ Hammond
Earlier the novel Tolstoy depicted Levin uneasiness in a city atmosphere.  But in Part Two, Tolstoy shows Levin in the country, where he lives and is more comfortable, after the rejection of Kitty.  This section (chapters 12-17) is in stark contrast to the previous one which is fast moving and has dark, contentious undertones.  Levin's chapters are slower paced and full of life and joy, taking place in springtime.  Though devastated by Kitty's rejection, Levin finds solace in the invigorating atmosphere of the country.  This new vitality provides the impetus to begin a book on farming while making sure the workers on his farm prepare the land for a new harvest.  Instead of being dejected, Levin seeks refuge in work and is full of life.

These chapters take place just after Easter "on the eve of Krasnaya Gorka," a Russian holiday commemorating the dead.  Before this time, the land had been covered with ice and the temperature was still freezing.  Nevertheless, a change began to occur immediately following the Christian holiday of resurrection:

Then all of a sudden, on Easter Monday, a warm wind sprang up, storm clouds swooped down, and for three days and three nights the warm, driving rain fell in streams. On Thursday the wind dropped, and a thick gray fog brooded over the land as though hiding the mysteries of the transformations that were being wrought in nature. Behind the fog there was the flowing of water, the cracking and floating of ice, the swift rush of turbid, foaming torrents; and on the following Monday, in the evening, the fog parted, the storm clouds split up into little curling crests of cloud, the sky cleared, and the real spring had come. In the morning the sun rose brilliant and quickly wore away the thin layer of ice that covered the water, and all the warm air was quivering with the steam that rose up from the quickened earth. The old grass looked greener, and the young grass thrust up its tiny blades; the buds of the guelder-rose and of the currant and the sticky birch-buds were swollen with sap, and an exploring bee was humming about the golden blossoms that studded the willow. Larks trilled unseen above the velvety green fields and the ice-covered stubble-land; peewits wailed over the low lands and marshes flooded by the pools; cranes and wild geese flew high across the sky uttering their spring calls. The cattle, bald in patches where the new hair had not grown yet, lowed in the pastures; the bowlegged lambs frisked round their bleating mothers. Nimble children ran about the drying paths, covered with the prints of bare feet. There was a merry chatter of peasant women over their linen at the pond, and the ring of axes in the yard, where the peasants were repairing ploughs and harrows. The real spring had come (Pt 2, Ch 12).

The land, which had been dead, suddenly began to come to life.  The ice melted, water flowed, the skies cleared, grass grew, flowers blossomed, and the birds renewed their melodic tunes.  Similarly, Levin's revitalization that took place during the season of new life shows he is not one to dwell with regret on his failures.  He uses other outlets to find meaning in life.  Tolstoy describes him as "a tree in spring," illustrating that Levin will not remain fixated on the past but will focus on new ways of living.

Consequently, the first thing Levin does when he recognizes the coming of Spring is to visit his cows, which symbolize life and reproduction.  Levin first spends time among those that represent life in order to gain a renewed purpose in life.  The rejection by Kitty was a death of sorts for Levin but coming of Spring and a renewed sense of purpose represent his new life.  When Stepan comes to visit, he recognizes that Levin is leading a new life and avoids bringing up the painful parts of the past.  And the joy that surrounds Levin is contagious, as Stepan experiences it as well.

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