Monday, March 15, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter III

Wow. Great chapter. So suddenly on the heels of Pierre's all to quick marriage to Vassily's daughter Helene (oh, I'm still bugged by that), we have Vassily coming to old Prince Andrei's to try to get his handsome, rakish, selfish son married off to Marya.

Once again, the writing is spectacular, whether it be describing Andrei's dislike of Vassily, whom he dislikes so much he actually has snow shoveled back over the road in an attempt to block him; to the wonderful dressing scene where Liza and Mlle Bourienne try to make Marya look less like drab, and only succeed in making her blotchy and unhappy.

Vassily, it's made clear from the last chapter, is really only interested in taking care of himself and getting money (I'm disliking him more and more). Andrei clearly mistrusts him, and knows what he's up to. And Anatole, his son, is in love with his own looks and will take anything that will give him more gratification. In the last chapter, Pierre was feckless against the joined forces of Vassily and Anna Pavlovna, who basically suggest him into love with Helene even though he knows it's not right. He had never even liked her. But the world is upside down for him, and he's open to flattery.

Marya, on the other hand, is swept up in some kind of insane religious fervor about it, mixed in with her own self-hatred and ideals of self-sacrifice.

Thinking of marriage, Princess Marya dreamed of family happiness and children, but her chiefest, strongest, and most secret dream was of earthly love. This feeling was all the stronger the more she tried to conceal it from others and even herself. "My God," she said, "how can I suppress these devil's thoughts in my heart? How can I renounce evil imaginings forever, so as peacefully to do Thy will?" And she had barely asked this question, when God answered her in her own heart: "Desire nothing for yourself; do not seek; do not worry, do not envy. The future of people and of your own fate must be unknown to you' but live so as to be ready for anything. If God should see fit to test you in the duties of marriage, be ready to fulfill His will." With this reassuring though (but still with a hope that her forbidden earthly dream would be fulfilled), Princess Marya sighed, crossed herself, and went downstairs without thinking about her dress, or her hairstyle, or how she would walk in, or what she would say. What could all this mean in comparison with the predestination of God, without whose will not on hair falls from man's head?

Oy, that girl does not stand a chance. Will this be bad marriage number 2 in two chapters?

I won't get into the whole spirituality/monarchy thing, but it would be interesting to know from that last sentence where Tolstoy fell in that argument. Arguing for religion is somewhat arguing for monarchy, and the divine right that all of these people felt they ruled under, and which was the underpinning of the class system. Sure that just went to pieces in the revolution, but it's interesting in this book and who does what to whom, justified by an idea of the will of God. I'll be sure to keep looking at that.

But poor Marya, she's got strength in there somewhere. I'm waiting for a Catherine Sloper moment. Though I'm sure much later.

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