W& P Week 22: Two/Four/8

For 6/8/2021 (OUP p. 553)

Book 2: Part 3 Continued

Scene: Petersburg

Chapter 22

Andrei goes to see Natasha the following day, but even though everyone expects a proposal, nothing happens. Natasha tells her mother (again in her bed) that she has never felt this way before and feels she was fated to fall in love with him; at the same time, Andrei tells Pierre (whose mood changes from grumpy to cheerful) about his love for Natasha, but also his worry that his father won’t consent.

Chapter 23

Andrei goes to see his father, who is not happy about this development and asks that Andrei wait a year. While he is gone (for 3 weeks) Natasha is on tenterhooks at first, but then returns to her habit of admiring herself as if through the eyes of a “third, collective, male person” (510). When Andrei returns, he asks the Countess for her daughter’s hand and explains about the yearlong wait; when he talks to Natasha, it takes her a while to process this delay; she is both happy and appalled at the same time.

Chapter 24

Because of the yearlong wait, there is no ceremony or official announcement of the engagement. Andrei gets ready to go abroad (for his health and to find a tutor for little Nikolai), but before he leaves, the begs Natasha and Sonya to appeal to Pierre and Pierre alone if they need help. Natasha is in despair at first after Andrei leaves, but then recovers and becomes “her old self again, but with a change in her moral physiogonomy, as a child gets up after a long illness with a changed expression of face” (516).

Scene: Bald Hills

Chapter 25

Prince Bolkonsky, Andrei’s dad, is declining in health and temper and takes it out on Marya. She seeks refuge in religion and writes about this to her friend Julie in Petersburg. She refuses to believe the rumors Julie has heard about her brother’s engagement.

Chapter 26

But then, a letter to Marya from Andrei from a spa abroad tells her about the engagement; he asks her to find out whether their father would be willing to let him get married 4 months earlier. The father’s response is erratic: Andrei should wait until he’s dead; he should marry right away and find out what the Rostovs are really like. He also threatens to marry Mademoiselle Bourienne, which worries Marya, who harbors the secret wish to become a vagrant pilgrim like the God’s folk she supports.

Book 2: Part 4

Scene: Pavlograd Regiment in Poland, then Otradnoe (Rostov country estate), fall 1809

Chapter 1

Nikolai loves his life in the military, because “though idle he was fulfilling his duty,” apparently an ideal state for humanity (or men?), 523. But his mother calls him home because the financial situation of the family is so dire. He takes a leave of absence and returns to Otradnoe, welcomed enthusiastically. He is a bit skeptical about the engagement, but admires his dignified, beautiful sister more than ever.

Chapter 2

Nikolai tries to intervene in the finances of the family by yelling at Mitenka, the steward, but he doesn’t understand any better than his father how finances work and cannot figure out basic bookkeeping to ascertain whether Mitenka is cheating them or not. After agreeing to destroy a promissory note from Anna M for 2,000 rubles because his mother asks him to, he stops interfering in money affairs; instead, he throws himself into hunting, for which is father, although only a half-hearted hunter, keeps an enormous establishment of horses, dogs, and men (query: all serfs? some serfs, some not?).

Chapter 3

Although it is only September, a winter hunt is being planned and the dogs are supposed to rest. But on September 15, the weather is perfect and everyone gets ready to go hunting, prompted by Nikolai and his huntsman Danilo, specifically for a wolf pack. Natasha insists on joining the hunt.

Chapter 4 — Hunting # 1

An enormous group of people and dogs (130 dogs in total) is part of the hunting party, Natasha and Petya and a country “Uncle,” a distant relative of the Rostovs with much less wealth, all joining them. The count stations himself with his attendant Chekmar and a jester / “buffoon” WHO IS A MAN IN DRAG CALLED BY A WOMAN’S NAME in a particular spot. (NB There is an entire 1998 monograph about the Buffoon in 19c Russian Literature–but I don’t even understand why there were still jesters in Russia as late as 1809!) They actually see the wolf that has been flushed out by the hounds but they are too inept to corner or attack it.

Chapter 5 — Hunting # 2

Nikolai is at his own post waiting for a wolf, and comes very close to catching an old she-wolf–his oldest hunting dog Karay actually attacks it (the moment when it looks like the dog will kill the wolf is “the happiest moment of his life” (536 UGH) but then the wolf gets away; Danilo gets it and it is captured alive and bound over a horse.

Chapter 6 — Hunting # 3

They keep hunting for a fox, but a neighbor, a man named Ilagin, who has had a long-lasting quarrel with the Rostovs, and his hunting party manage to kill it even though the Rostov party’s dogs hunted it. A conflict seems imminent, but instead, Ilagin is very polite and Nikolai calms down. They all ride together and pretend to be modest about their prize hunting dogs or borzois, which, according to the poor “Uncle” actually cost “a village” (i.e. MULTIPLE FAMILIES OF SERFS, cf. 540) each. The Uncle’s much less valuable borzoi Rugay actually manages to catch the hare that they are after. It is clear that hunting is an important way to stage social competition and dominance–the Uncle has won this round.

Chapter 7 — Hunting # 4

After Ilagin and his party take leave at the end of the day, Uncle invites them to his homestead, where they can rest until a trap can be sent for Natasha, Nikolai, and Petya to get them back home. The serfs on the modest, almost shabby estate gawk at Natasha, and although Nikolai and Natasha at first laugh at the way the Uncle lives, his happiness and especially the delicious traditional Russian food that the jolly housekeeper Anisya (very clearly the uncle’s mistress or common-law wife) serves are infectious. When his huntsman plays the balalaika and Uncle himself the guitar and a folk-dance begins, the young French-educated aristocrats all become very Russian, and Natasha dances and wants to learn the guitar instead of the harp. The traps arrive around 9 pm and Natasha and Nikolai talk on the way home, still mutually admiring each other.

Chapter 8

Meanwhile, the money gets ever tighter and Count Ilya Rostov’s affairs messier and messier. But it doesn’t occur to him to stop hosting card games and losing tons of money to his neighbors in gambling, or to reduce his hunting establishment. The countess has only one idea–that of getting Nikolai to agree to marry the wealthy Julie Karagina. But even though he is not particularly enamored of Sonya anymore, he asks her theoretically whether she really thinks he should sacrifice his feelings if he loved “a girl who has no fortune” “only wishing to show his noble-mindedness” (552) and his mother feels unable to insist. Nikolai starts to pay attention to Sonya again, while Natasha is growing depressed as Andrei is still abroad, his war wound giving him trouble again.