The next morning, Nikolai is irritable. Levin wishes that he and Nikolai could have a frank conversation about Nikolai’s inevitable death. Nikolai provokes an argument about communism, which ends in Nikolai leaving; just before he leaves, however, in a moment of unprecedented sincerity, Nikolai tells Levin not to think badly of him. Three days after Nikolai leaves, Levin himself goes abroad. At the railway station, he meets Kitty’s cousin and says that he knows mortality is near. Work, feels Levin, is the only thing guiding him through life.
Though Levin and Nikolai bicker on the surface, Nikolai clearly feels deeply attached to Levin, and there is a deep bond between the brothers that becomes illuminated by Nikolai’s mortality. In the face of Nikolai’s impending death, Levin clings to his work as something that can still provide meaning to life.