W&P Week 10: One/Three/6

For 3/16/2021 * OUP Edition to p. 252

(Part 2 Continued — still in Austria, after the battle)

Chapter 21

The wounded Nikolai is picked up by Tushin and his cart—it is still not clear what is wrong with him except a sprained arm. The aftermath of the battle is described primarily in terms of sounds in the dark, as the troops come to a stopping point for the night and light campfires. Tushin reports to Bagration with the other officers around (including the coward Zherkov, who lies about what he witnessed), and is asked how he could have lost two artillery guns. He does not want to admit that there were no troops covering them so as not to get any other officer in trouble, but Andrei intervenes and points out that there were no supports. Tushin is very grateful. The chapter ends with Nikolai waking up from a fever dream in despair.

Book 1, Part 3

SCENE CHANGE: Petersburg and Moscow

Chapter 1

Meanwhile, in Petersburg, Prince Vasili has been working as Pierre’s (the new Count Bezhukov’s) advisor and manager, flattering him and also milking him for money. Pierre is as passive as before, but delighted (although it seems natural to him) that people now seem to like him and think he is extraordinarily kind and intelligent.  Vasili gets him a position at court, and his main aim is to get his daughter Helene married to Pierre. At another soiree at Anna Pavlova’s (a “commander on the battlefield” of social relations as before, 218), Pierre discovers that he is attracted to Helene since he is thrown into very close contact to her and notices her body (BOOBS in particular) despite his shortsightedness (219). He is indecisive about marriage: is she stupid or not? Is there something unseemly about being attracted to her or not? But he knows he’ll marry her.

Chapter 2

Vasili is eager to settle this marriage, and since Pierre lives in his household, everyone is working at making sure that Helene and Pierre are thrown together, but six weeks later, Pierre is still waffling. On Helene’s name-day, there is a big dinner and party, with Vasili telling funny stories while Pierre and Helene just sit there. He is unable to say anything even when they are left alone together for the purpose of proposing. But then Vasili preempts the proposal and simply congratulates the couple as if Pierre had proposed. Pierre thinks “All this had to be and could not be otherwise” (228; cf. also deathbed scene earlier). He remembers he is supposed to kiss her, but when she is proactive about a kiss on the lips, he is a bit shocked. They get married six weeks later.


Chapter 3

Vasili takes his middle son, Anatole, to the estate of Andrei’s dad, Prince Bolkonsky, in hopes to make a match between him and Marya. Bolkonsky is of two minds about this and also annoyed at the interruption of the routine and at the arrival of a courtier. His foul mood frightens everyone, and the very pregnant Princess Liza stays out of his way. Vasili and Anatole arrive, and the women are all breathless about how attractive Anatole looks. He is quite willing to marry Marya for her money, even though he knows already that she is ugly. Meanwhile, Liza and M’lle Bourienne are trying to make Marya look prettier by making her wear various dresses and hairstyles until she asks them to leave her alone, looking, by her own and everyone else’s assessment, especially unattractive at the end of it all. But she calms herself down by turning it all over to God: if she is supposed to get married, then it will happen. (Note: I both love and hate how brutal Tolstoy is about the idea of everyone being so focused on physical beauty. If he hadn’t raved about her beautiful eyes when she was first introduced, I’d probably not understand how thought-through this is, rather than some sort of horrible comic scene at the expense of the ugly girl.”)

Chapter 4

Marya comes down to dinner and is struck by Anatole’s beauty and self-possession. Princess Liza and Prince Vasili chatter over dinner. Anatole notices the pretty little French woman immediately. Bolkonsky, who has been thinking about not wanting to part from his daughter as he got dressed for dinner, is angry that Marya is wearing her dressy clothes and hairdo, and calls her out in front of everyone, telling her she can never change her way of dress without his consent and that she looks like a scarecrow (239 – WOW).  Anatole betrays his ignorance about the regiment he is supposed to be part of and Bolkonsky is underwhelmed, but tells Vasili he is still willing to find out whether Marya is willing to marry him. The women, meanwhile, turn all their attention to Anatole, and M’elle Bourienne starts dreaming about him seducing her but then reforming and marrying her, like in a story she has read. He is clearly already intending to do the former, and plays footsie with her under the clavichord, while Marya thinks he is looking amorously at her while she plays.

Chapter 5

After dinner, all go to bed and the women are all sleepless, as well as Prince Bolkonsky, who is intensely jealous of Anatole but also sees through him and knows his daughter is naïve—he decides she “must be shown that the blockhead thinks nothing of her and looks only at Bourienne” (243). When his daughter goes to see him at the usual hour the next day, he asks her first what she wants and when she says she only wants to do  what her father wants, he tells her “He will take you  with your dowry and take Mademoiselle Bourienne into the bargain” (245). Then he  tells her it is her right to choose and sends her off.  She is in tears and upset although she knows “her fate was decided” (Tolstoy does not spell out what she thinks the fate is, but I assume not to marry, since her father clearly doesn’t want her to?), but until she walks in on Anatole and M’elle Bourienne embracing, she cannot believe what her father said about them. But she instantly forgives Mademoiselle and consoles her, and just moments later tells Princes Bolkonsky and Vasili (THE FATHERS) that she has decided never to marry and never to leave her father—that this is her vocation. She even thinks to herself later that she can make a match between Amelie Bourienne and Anatole-naïve as ever, but also kind of sweet.

SCENE CHANGE to the Rostovs’ House in Moscow

Chapter 6

The Count has received a letter from Nikolai, after much tense waiting. Anna M., who still lives with them, immediately finds out from him that Nikolai was wounded (still no specifics) and that he has been promoted to be an officer (why?). Anna is now in charge of gradually preparing the Countess for the news, but while she is strategizing, Natasha intuits that there is a letter, finds out the gist, and immediately tells Sonya, who bursts into tears. 9-year old Petya immediately observes “It’s true that all  women are cry-babies” (249), learning his lessons about gender early. Natasha doesn’t quite understand why Sonya is so relieved/upset; she herself has no similar anxieties about Boris; her brother cheekily accuses her of always being in love with someone or other: Pierre, the Italian voice teacher, etc. Meanwhile, Anna has finally broken the news to the Countess, who now reads the letter to everyone many times over, full of admiration for Nikolai, the (alleged) “model son and officer” but also struggling to believe that this is the same person who was once a baby at her breast. The family collects letters from everyone and 6,000 rubles for the uniform etc. and with Anna M.’s help sends it to him via the Guards.

Leave a Reply