The idea of [his mother] was a sacred memory for him, and in his imagination his future wife had to be a replica of that enchanting, holy ideal of womanhood which his mother had been for him.

Levin often has unrealistically high expectations for everything in his life, and women are no exception. Levin’s standards are based on an idealized memory of his mother, who died when he was young, and therefore remains a perfect and unspoiled figure in his life. As he suffers through the journey of finding a wife, he often oscillates between putting Kitty on an extremely high pedestal and being unfairly disappointed in her. He struggles to empathize with her mistakes and faults because his idealism blinds him to the realities of her situation and her personality. However, Levin learns to be more realistic and forgiving throughout the novel, generally finding a balance between adoring his wife and recognizing her limits.

You don’t want to organize anything; you just want to be original, just like you have been your whole life, and show that you are not just exploiting the peasants, but have an idea.

Levin struggles to find meaning in life or a purpose in society because he can’t seem to become passionate about the common good. As his brother explains in this passage, Levin is more concerned with being the creator of an idea or system that causes agricultural progress and helps the peasantry than he is with agricultural progress or the well-being of the peasantry itself. He wants to be recognized, both by society and by himself, as an individual with intellectual merit and original ideas, but he has little personal interest in politics, education, public health, or the lives of the lower classes. This personality flaw is frustrating for Levin because he recognizes that he is fundamentally selfish and cannot change this about himself, but his lack of passion for greater causes makes his existence feel purposeless, and so he constantly suffers from existential doubts.

I haven’t discovered anything. I have just found out what I know. I have understood that power which has not only given me life in the past, but is giving me life now. I have freed myself from deception and have discovered the master.

At the end of the novel, Levin returns to Christianity after decades of non-belief and finds new hope and purpose in his spiritual enlightenment. Throughout Anna Karenina, Levin struggles to find a life-purpose that sustains him—he often has energizing ideas for new projects or ways of living but this energy fades as quickly as it comes, and he returns to a gloomy state. After a long inner battle, Levin concludes that rational, science-based philosophies are simply unable to provide the spiritual meaning that humans need in order to function. Christianity’s tenets of fostering community and living for God and the good of the soul are, to Levin, the solution for his existential problems, and he feels that he has finally and permanently found God and faith.