W& P Week 30: Three/Two/5

For 8/3/2021 (p. 757)

Book Three, Part 1

Scene: Continuing with the Rostovs in Moscow

Chapter 17
Natasha, although improving, is still depressed and avoids everyone except Pierre, although she doesn’t understand that his love for her is unlike the kindness he extends to others. A neighbor encourages gets her to renew her interest in religious ritual and she goes through a week-long fasting and praying in preparation for Holy Communion and begins to feel “calm and not oppressed by the thought of the life that lay before her” (708).

Chapter 18
The war news getting to Moscow are more and more worrisome, and on July 11, a manifesto by the emperor comes out, with Pierre promising to get it to the Rostovs. In church, where Natasha prays for her loved ones and her enemies (including Anatole) as well as for Andrei to forgive her, a new public prayer for “the deliverance of Russia from hostile invasion” (711) is added and she is deeply moved, but cannot pray for the destruction of the enemies when “minutes before she had been wishing she had more of them that she might pray for them” (712).

Chapter 19
Pierre, who since he saw the comet (end of Book 2, 644) is basically living for his visits to see Natasha but restless the rest of the time, convincing himself that somehow numerology prophecies that he will have a major role in the destruction of Napoleon–but that this role entails not joining the army but “not to undertake anything, but wait for what was bound to pass” (715). He does take the war news and letters, including the news of Nikolai’s having been awarded a medal for his courage (Chapter 15), to the Rostovs, though.

Chapter 20
When Pierre goes over to the Rostovs for dinner, he finds Natasha trying to sing but almost feeling like she shouldn’t, and seeking his approval–Pierre almost repeats his declaration of love, but she again thinks of him just as the kindest and most generous person. Petya, now 15, joins them. He is supposed to prepare to attend university, but he wants to become a hussar and join the war–the French are said to be approaching Smolensk and he is very riled up, pleading with his family to let him go–his mother is dead set against it. Pierre on the other hand, when asked whether he will join a militia, thinks he himself would make a terrible warrior; he is also very agitated because of Natasha and leaves, promising himself to stop going to the Rostovs’ house.

Chapter 21
Petya is determined to see the Emperor when he comes to Moscow, and envisions being able to speak to him, but instead settles for being part of the masses that move toward the Kremlin to get a glimpse of him at the Cathedral of the Assumption. He is almost trampled down and lost consciousness, but someone rescues him and he recovers on the platform of the “Tsar-cannon” (723) and stays for the service, full of love for the Emperor (like his brother years earlier). He follows the crowd to the palace afterwards, and catches a glimpse of the Czar on the balcony as he throws biscuits down to the crowd. When he returns home, he again insists on entering the army and the Count sets things in motion to have him be “where there would be the least danger” (725).

Chapter 22
The nobles and the businessmen of Moscow meet on July 15 at the Sloboda palace to welcome the Emperor, knowing that he will ask for their support. Everyone is in uniform, and everyone is talking, a mix of the usual small talk about trivialities and about Important War Things. Pierre listens for a while and then, just to contribute to the conversation, ventures to say that he is willing to contribute generously to the war effort, but would like to know the number and position of troops currently first. He is basically shouted down (with the als0-present Count Rostov always liking best whatever was said last).

Chapter 23
Then, the Emperor arrives, and all show immediate devotion and solidarity–the nobles offering at least ten fully equipped soldiers out of every 1,000 serfs they own, and Pierre himself pledging a thousand men and their maintenance. Count Rostov signs up Petya.

Book Three, Part 2

Chapter 1

Rumination about the causes (and also about what were definitely not the causes) of Napoleon’s defeat in Russia. The narrator points out that it is clear in hindsight that the key factors were Napoleon’s late start in his march to Moscow, without any preparation for a winter campaing, and the way the destruction of towns along the way fanned the flames of Russian enmity at every step of the way. But he thinks that historians who argue that Napoleon or any of his commanders knew that he was endangering the success as early as Smolensk, or that the Russian generals were deliberately drawing Napoleon further into the country are “in flat contradiction” to what we know. Napoleon was eager to move ahead, and there was no concerted or efficient strategy to do anything about it among the very divided Russian army, where Bagration was deeply resentful to have to be under the command of the “foreigner” Barclay de Tolly and where other Russians were equally suspicious of the German and other non-Russian military personnel in the service (e.g. Pfuel, see earlier chapters). This is what led of the battle of Smolensk and the destruction of the town, and paradoxically, the defeat and retirement of the Russian forces in frustration and disarray was what ultimately destroyed Napoleon.

Scene Change: Bald Hill

Chapter 2
After Andrei’s departure (Book 3, Part 1, Chapter 8), his father does break off the relationship to M’elle Bourienne, but is no nicer to Marya. Like ALL WOMEN, Marya does not understand the point of the war, and even her friend Julie, writing from Moscow, cannot make her understand its importance. Marya takes her cues ultimately from her father, who never talks about the war and cannot even work up the energy to understand what Andrei is writing to him: that the French have advanced into Russia past the Dnieper and that they should probably leave Bald Hill. Instead, the only thing that is supposed to happen, as it does on regular basis, is that the steward, Alpatych, is being sent to Smolensk, which is only 30 miles away.

Chapter 3
The prince, very weak now and struggling primarily with finding places and ways to sleep, finally rereads the letter from Andrei and almost takes action, but just descends back into his memories of Catherine the Great and Potemkin from his youth.

Chapter 4
Alpatych finally gets his instructions, and a letter to the Governor of Smolensk asking for advice, from Dessalles, who has a very clear idea of the threat the French pose after Andrei’s letter takes off as he usually does when he goes to Smolensk and arrives an August 4, staying across the river in an inn that belongs to Ferantopov, who has long-time business connections to the Bolkonskys. They can hear gunfire, but Alpatych goes about his business the next morning, except that he does go to the governor–who advises that the family go to Moscow, but also hands him a notice by Barclay de Tolly reassuring the governor that he and Bagration will keep the city out of danger. When he returns to Ferantopov, the household is in uproar–Ferantopov wants to stay, his wife and other women want to go, and only when a French cannonade begins and a cook is wounded does everyone hide in the basement. Alpatych later emerges to watch fires breaking out all over town, and then encounters Prince Andrei, who has ridden into town with his regiment. Andrei immediately writes a message to Marya and sends Alpatych on his way to tell the family that Smolensk is abandoned and that they need to leave for Moscow immediately. Andrei encounters Berg, who tries to reprimand him for some violation of orders, but completely ignores Berg.

Chapter 5
A week later, as the Russian troops retreat from Smolensk around August 10, Andrei takes his regiment to Bald Hills to check. A 3-week drought has parched the land. Andrei, beloved by his men because he is very considerate of them, but very hostile to everyone he has formerly known (like Berg in the previous chapter), checks on the abandoned estate. There is some minor destruction, and Alpatych and a few serfs are still guarding it, trying to look out for their masters’ possessions (valuables have been taken to Bogucharovo, the estate the Bolkonskys have fled to). Andrei tells Alpatych that if the French come, he should also go to one of the other estates owned by the family; Alpatych bursts in to tears. Andrei, taking in the destruction of the estate where he spent his childhood, sees two little girls trying to take plums from some of the hacked-down trees and “realized the existence of other human interests entirely aloof from his own and just as legitimate as those that occupied him” (755; an Auden/”Musee des Beaux Arts” moment), and also watches the soldiers of his regiment splash in the muddy pond, naked and “like carp stuffed into a watering can” (756). He thinks of them with sadness, as cannon fodder.
–In the meantime, Bagration writes to the advisors of the Tsar (assuming the Tsar will see it too) that he cannot work with Barclay de Tolly, who is an “execrable” general who is “vacillating, a coward, dense, dilatory” (757).