In the country we try to bring our hands into a condition so that we can work with them easily; so we cut our nails and sometimes roll up our sleeves. But here people deliberately grow their nails as long as possible and put on cuff-links as big as saucers, so you definitely can’t do anything with your hands.

Levin compares country life to city life by contrasting the fingernails of country people with those of city people. By saying that city people purposefully grow their nails long and are therefore unable to do anything with their hands, Levin insinuates that city people choose to diminish their usefulness to the world. Country people, on the other hand, choose to increase their usefulness to the world. Levin places greater value on the physical, material work of the country than the political, cerebral work of the city.

“You’ve got everything you love. You love horses – you’ve got them; dogs – got them; shooting – got that; farming – got that.” “Maybe it's because I enjoy what I have, and don’t grieve over what I don’t have,” said Levin.

Despite being a city man himself, with no intentions to ever move to the country, Stiva admires that Levin lives a relatively simple life and has everything he needs to be happy. Indeed, while the city offers countless professional and social opportunities, Levin finds greater enjoyment and contentment in focusing on the simple joys that the country provides. Some of his happiest moments include working the fields with the peasants, and spending time alone in nature. Levin’s discontent often stems from his active, intellectual mind, but his work in the country always helps to ground and calm him.

For Konstantin Levin the country was a place where one encountered the stuff of life, that is to say, joy, suffering, and toil; for Sergei Ivanovich the country was on the one hand a rest from work, and on the other a pleasant antidote to dissipation.

Levin, who romanticizes country life and farming, is displeased with how his brother views the country. While Levin sees country life as the ultimate form of living, Sergei sees it only as a place where he can forget his intellectual responsibilities. He views the country as a vacation from real life. Levin is often disappointed with how his city-dwelling friends and family fail to see the importance of the country. For him, farming is a far purer, simpler, and more respectable pursuit than the lofty, complicated philosophical and political careers of his brother and friends.

Levin had often admired this life, and often felt envious of the people who lived this life, but today for the first time, and particularly under the impact of what he had seen of Ivan Parmenov’s relationship with his young wife, it dawned on him clearly for the first time that it was up to him to exchange the oppressive, idle, artificial, and personal life he had been leading for this hard-working, pure, and delightful shared life.

Levin is drawn to the peasant lifestyle because it seems to him sincere and peaceful. The peasants’ days are filled with manual labor, which Levin himself enjoys and which clears his ever-working mind, and they often have large families full of children, which Levin admires, as he holds traditional family values. Peasants also live simply and in tune with nature and the seasons, which Levin considers a much purer way of life than those concerned with cerebral matters like politics and philosophy. That said, Levin has a romantic, unrealistic view of peasantry. As a wealthy, educated, and powerful man, he is completely ignorant of the reality of the peasantry, which includes poverty, lack of education, and a life of servitude to rich landowners. Dolly gets an insight into the side of the peasantry that Levin overlooks when she meets a peasant woman who, overwhelmed by living a poverty-stricken life and caring for a family with far too many children to feed, bluntly states that she was not upset but rather relieved when her infant daughter died.