Classic Case of Madness is thrilled to bring you a guest post today. “Levin the Introvert” was written by fellow classics reader Gina. In August Gina came to the blog as a friend of Christina’s sister, and now she’s become our friend too. Enjoy!
So I just finished reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, which is an excellent book. As an introvert, it was an affirming read and showed me that being an introvert is not a negative personality trait.
When I started reading Quiet, all of a sudden, AK was suddenly showing me lots of examples of Levin as an introvert and made me recall the quote attributed to Flaubert about Tolstoy. Tolstoy did such an amazing job of portraying his characters that he picked up on this type of personality trait before the concepts of introversion and extroversion became widely accepted.
Here are a few examples that jumped out at me – did anyone find any other examples?
Part One, Chapter 7 – Levin enjoys listening to a philosophical conversation with his brother Koznyshev and a professor – “Is there a line to be drawn between psychological phenomena in man, and if so, where?” (Introverts are great listeners and prefer having deep conversations to small talk.)
Part Three, Chapters 4-6 – Levin mows the field with the peasants; yeah, more than one chapter devoted to mowing! (Introverts tend to enjoy activities that are solitary and do not require much conversation.)
Part Three, Chapter 26 – Levin goes hunting on the property of his friend Sviazhsky, and Sviazhsky’s unmarried sister-in-law is wearing a low-necked dress – “…but he had not complete freedom of ideas, because he was in an agony of embarrassment. This agony of embarrassment was due to the fact that the sister-in-law was wearing a dress specially put on, he thought, for his benefit, cut particularly low, in the shape of a trapeze, on her white bosom. This square opening, in spite of the bosom’s being very white, or just because it was very white, deprived Levin of the full use of his faculties.” (Introverts are not very good at multi-tasking.)This was a LOL moment for me!
Part Four, Chapter 11 – Kitty and Levin converse with each other while everyone else talks about politics (Introverts prefer one-on-one conversations).
Part Six, Chapters 8-13 – Levin takes up several chapters going hunting (similar to the mowing example).
Part Six, Chapter 28 – Levin is in Kashin for the elections. “But Levin forgot all that, and it was painful to him to see all these excellent persons for whom he had a respect, in such an unpleasant and vicious state of excitement. To escape from this painful feeling he went away into the other room, where there was nobody except the waiters at the buffet.” (Introverts may not be as comfortable expressing their feelings outwardly, and also need to take occasional breaks when in group situations.)
Part Seven, Chapter 1 – Kitty is noticing differences in Levin since they moved to Moscow for her confinement. “She liked his serene, friendly, and hospitable manner in the country. In town he seemed continually uneasy and on his guard, as though he was afraid someone would be rude to him, and still more to her.” (Introverts tend to be homebodies and like to avoid conflict when possible.)
Part Seven, Chapter 3 – Levin meets Metrov, who is a well-known agricultural or economics writer. “’What I began precisely was to write a book on agriculture, the laborer,’ said Levin, reddening, ‘I could not help coming to quite unexpected results.’ And Levin began carefully, as it were, feeling his ground, to expound his views.” (Introverts can be embarrassed by the spotlight, but actually do enjoy taking an active role in conversations that cover subjects they are familiar with.)
Part Seven, Chapter 5 – Levin takes Natalie to a concert and tries to immerse himself in the music. “…he stood against a column and tried to listen as attentively and conscientiously as possible. He tried not to let his attention be distracted, and not to spoil his impression by looking at the conductor in a white tie, waving his arms, which always disturbed his enjoyment of music so much, or the ladies in bonnets, with strings carefully tied over their ears, and all these people either thinking nothing at all or thinking of all sorts of things except the music.” (examples of overstimulation, disdain of people who don’t think deeply.)
On an unrelated note, this was one of my favorite parts of the book so far – Part Six, Chapter 31, where Oblonsky sends Dolly a telegram – “Darya Aleksandrovna, getting the message, simply sighed over the ruble wasted on it, and understood that it was sent after dinner. She knew Stiva had a weakness after dining for faire jouer le telegraphe (setting the telegraph going).” So who knew?! Before drunk texting there was drunk telegraphing!