Thursday, April 14, 2011

Highlights from Pages 418-820

These are my ten favorite moments from pages 418-820. What moments or passages would you add?

1) Andrei and the Old Oak (419-20 and 423)—Tolstoy’s resonant symbol for Andrei’s dormancy and rebirth

2) Tolstoy’s Mini-Essay on Idleness (488)—a wonderful little digression that ends up introducing the appeal of the military life to Rostov:

Biblical tradition says that the absence of work—idleness—was the condition of the first man’s blessedness before his fall. The love of idleness remained the same in fallen man, but the curse still weighs on man, and not only because we must win our bread in the sweat of our face, but because our moral qualities are such that we are unable to be idle and at peace. A secret voice tells us that we shoul feel guilty for being idle. If man could find a condition in which, while idle, he felt that he was being useful and was fulfilling his duty, he would have found one side of primordial blessedness.

3) Rostov and Sonya kiss while dressed as mummers (528-29)—perhaps the most tender and erotic love scene in the novel

4) Pierre’s Identity Crisis and His Reading (535-38)—I love this chapter. I did a post about this on my own blog.

5) The Opera (557-567)—a great set piece about Natasha’s entry into the exciting, dangerous world of society and sexuality (notice the repetition of the word “bare”)

6) Anatole’s Near Abduction of Natasha (576-594)—the most soap opera-ish part of the novel, and perhaps the most gripping as well

7) Pierre and the Sky—at the end of Volume II, one of the best examples of Tolstoy’s lyricism, and a fascinating parallel with a scene involving Andrei at Austerlitz at the end of Volume I:

Only looking at the sky did Pierre not feel the insulting baseness of everything earthly compared with the height his soul had risen to…. It seemed to Pierre that this star answered fully to what was in his softened and encouraged soul, now blossoming into new life. (600)

8) The Man Rostov Nearly Killed—a wonderful moment of successive realizations about war:

“So that’s all there is to so-called heroism? And did I really do it for the fatherland? And what harm had he done, with his dimple and his light blue eyes? But how frightened he was! He thought I’d kill him. Why should I kill him? My hand faltered. And they gave me the St. George Cross. I understand nothing, nothing!” (654)

9) Andrei Unfolds for Pierre His Realizations about War (772-777)—Andrei, having attained a remarkable awareness through his diverse experiences, seems to speak for Tolstoy here:

“I see that I’ve begun to understand too much.” (776)

10) Andrei and Anatole after Borodino—a climax that explodes with emotion and meaning after Tolstoy’s epic battle sequence:

Prince Andrei could no longer restrain himself, and he wept tender, loving tears over people, over himself, and over their and his own errors.

“Compassion, love for our brothers, for those who love us, love for those who hate us, love for our enemies—yes, that love which God preached on earth, which Princess Marya taught me, and which I didn’t understand; that why I was sorry about life, that’s what was still left for me, if I was to live. But now it’s too late. I know it!” (814)

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