For 5/11/2021 (OUP p. 453)
Book 2 Part 2
Scene: The Russian Provinces (still ca. 1807)
Pierre goes to his estates near Kiev and elsewhere and works with his steward and other “managers” on these estates to improve the lives of his serfs, since they convince him it is impossible to free them. But he really gets completely duped by these people and in effect makes things worse for the serfs without even realizing it, blissfully impressed with himself because new buildings are going up (unused) and nursing mothers get sent home (to work harder there without pay). He is also continuing to party and life “the old life” in Kiev (405).
Pierre goes to see Andrei on his estate, and is appalled how desponded and lifeless Andrei seems, even has his affairs are in very good order. Pierre tries to talk to him about the idea of living for others–the life of self-sacrifice he thinks he is living. But Andrei can’t see the point. Pierre building hospitals and Andrei building himself a new manor house and garden are just equally “a pastime” (411). He says that he only serves under his father because he can use his influence to prevent his father’s harshest punishments. As for the liberation of the serfs, he is indifferent because he thinks that physical labor is all they care about. If anything, he is more concerned about the way that power over serfs corrupts the ones that have it–their cruelty is the reason to consider emancipating the serfs.
Pierre joins Andrei on a carriage ride to visit Andrei’s father and sister with Andrei, which gives him a chance to tell him about freemasonry and his belief in God. And while Andrei does not seem like cares, it does have an impact on him, and suddenly, “something that was best within him [ ] suddenly awoke, joyful and youthful, in his soul” (417).
At Bald Hills, Andrei and Pierre see “God’s folk,” the vagrant pilgrims that Marya secretly supports without her dad’s approval, scurrying off. When they go see Marya, they talk to one of them, Ivanushka, and are quite ready to make fun of them for their naive belief in what Andrei and Pierre clearly see as fraudulent miracles put together by greedy monks. They hastily apologize when Marya pleads with them to not offend her charges.
Both Marya and Andrey’s dad enjoy having Pierre around, even though the count likes to argue with him; Marya is rather worried about Andrei, including his inability of him, because he’s not a woman, to “weep away our sorrows” (421). Pierre feels appreciated.
Scene: Pavlograd Regiment Camp, East Prussia (Spring / Summer 1807)
Scene Change: Nikolai rejoins his regiment in East Prussia (Bartenstein near Preussisch-Eulau; this is about two months after the famously inconclusive battle that happened there in February of 1807) and feels instantly at home and as if everything is order and clarity–even though the rations keep not coming through and the men are starving and miserable in muddy tents. He is again living with Denisov, in a comparatively luxurious earth-lodge type structure that has been built for the officers.
One morning, after coming home to his quarters, Nikolai sees an infuriated Denisov take off on horseback and come back with provisions that he has commandeered from an infantry convoy. He refuses to return them or to apologize, and when he discovers that it is Telyanin who kept holding up the food for his regiment, he starts beating him up. When Denisov gets wounded a little while later, he willingly leaves for the hopistal to get everyone off his back.
After the armistice following the battle of Friedland in June 1807 (where Napoleon decisively won) Nikolai goes to the hospital where Denisov is being “treated” (it is completely overrun and in the midst of a typhus epidemic). Nikolai sees the devastating conditions, including a dead man among the sick common soldiers, whom no one has time to bury).
When Nikolai finally finds Denisov in the officer’s ward, he is worse off than before health-wise and still determined not to apologize and not to “gwovel” (435)–at least not publicly. Everyone in the ward seems to have heard him go on about this before and they all tune him out. But eventually, he gives Nikolai what he has come for: the signed petition to the emperor for a pardon.
Nikolai arrives in Tilsit to deliver the petition at the worst possible time–just as Napoleon and Czar Alexander are about to engage in the negotiation of the peace of Tilsit (begun in June and concluded in July of 1807, a huge scoop for Napoleon). Boris, who is there and who knows that the wind now blows in Napoleon’s favor, is entertaining French and Russian officers when Nikolai arrives, and is very reluctant to help Nikolai with the petition.
Instead, Nikolai wanders through town the next morning and decides to go directly to Czar Alexander’s quarters. Again, he is being told (as he had been by Boris) that he needs to hand the petition in through his commander; a cavalry general who likes Denisov tries to help him out, but Alexander tells him that he has to abide by the law.
Nikolai now witnesses Alexander and Napoleon riding together to check out the Russian army (he notices how short Napoleon is BUT NAPOLEON WASN’T SHORT), and witnesses how a random soldier in the first rank, Lazarev, is being given the French Legion of Honor medal, because Napoleon would like to make a gesture of goodwill. Nikolai is baffled by the preference of Lazarev while Denisov remains unduly “punished and unpardoned” (446); but when other officers start grumbling at various unfairnesses, he defends the emperor with a quasi-theological fervor–they cannot presume to know what Alexander wants, but they need to follow him in everything, because he is always right. (“Theirs not to reason why/Theirs but to do and die,” basically.) And then they all get drunk again.
Book 3 Part 1
Scene: Spring 1809, the Russian Provinces
As the Russians and the French are working together AGAINST Austria, even discussing dynastic ties, daily life “went on as usual” (446). Andrei has begun to put into practice what Pierre can’t get together: he has emancipated 300 of his serfs, and continues to work with his father and follow the political events closely. In the spring of 1809, he is visiting an estate in Ryazan that little Nikolai, his son, has inherited; on the way there, his footman Pyotr is raving about how everything is already green. But Andrei sees an oak that is still all bare, and thinks that spring is a fraud, and the oak says it all: “his life was not for him to begin anything anew–but […] he must live out his life, content to do no harm, and not disturbing himself or desiring anything” (449 — clinical depression AND Buddhism?)
The person Andrei has to talk to in Ryazan is actually Count Rostov, now in the country with his family. He watches a gaggle of girls from a distance, as they play and giggle in the garden, including Natasha, whose joy he doesn’t understand. But later her overhears her from his bedroom window, since the girl’s room is above hers, as she is mooning over the moon and the beautiful night. That stirs an “unexpected turmoil of youthful thoughts and hopes” (451).
The next day, Andrei settles his business with Count Rostov and starts on the back home, again passing the oak. But now it’s June, spring is in full bloom, and the oak is “transfigured” and full of leaves, so that Andrei decides “life is not over at thirty-one” (452), and decides everything will change. He doesn’t even understand anymore why he felt the way he did before (even Princess Lise doesn’t seem to be accusing him of having caused her death anymore), and makes all kinds of plans to go to Petersburg in the fall and get involved in everything again.