‘the consciousness of a new sphere of liability to pain’ —Anna Karenina

‘Smiling, hardly able to restrain his tears, Levin kissed his wife and went out of the dark room. What he felt towards this little creature was utterly unlike what he had expected. There was nothing cheerful and joyous in the feeling; on the contrary, it was a new torture of apprehension. It was the consciousness of a new sphere of liability to pain. And this sense was so painful at first, the apprehension lest this helpless creature should suffer was so intense, that it prevented him from noticing the strange thrill of senseless joy and even pride that he had felt when the baby sneezed.’

Anna Karenina, Part Seven, Chapter 16

This paragraph could stand by itself, like the sentence that deserves its own novel. It is wound so tightly and encompasses so many different emotional reference points. This rhetorical technique of bracketing emotional resonance as if it were artillery fire serves the situation so perfectly that the reader hardly notices what Tolstoy has achieved in a single paragraph: he has said something fresh about the joy of new parenthood.