Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter IV

This is just getting too good. I believe I like the society chapters so much because he great skill at character drawing is on display. Not that's it's not evident everywhere else, but it's just particularly juicy.

There's really too much to even go into that is good. This is becoming a page turner, if you can believe it. I see how it was serialized.

So Marya goes into the room with Anatole and Vassily. It's clear she's made up her mind to love him - she's completely overwhelmed, even when trying to ignore him. Meanwhile Anatole is self-satisfied and very aware of the effect he's having on the ladies.

In Anatole's behavior with women there was a manner which more than any other awakens women's curiosity, fear, and even love - a manner of contemptuous awareness of his own superiority. As if he were saying to them with is look: 'I know you, I know, but why should I bother with you? And you'd be glad if I did!" Perhaps he did not think that when he met women (and it is even probable that he did not, because he generally thought little), but such was his look and manner.

Possibly sexist, but he's more contemptuous of Anatole than any of the women. Liza engages them all in flirty conversation. Meanwhile, old Prince Andrei is being crochety and hilarious, trying to convince himself he is fine giving up his daughter, when in reality it's clear he does not want to let her go. He's gruff, comes in a reduces her to tears about her hairstyle, thinks Andrei is ridiculous, and then just takes Vassily away and semi-agrees to a marriage that hasn't even been proposed yet. He does not beat around the bush. It's difficult to limn whether he loves his daughter, needs the help, or is insulted she may leave. Hard to tell.

Anatole, it's clear, doesn't care about Marya, even thinking her "devilishly ugly". He is into Mlle Bourienne, who meanwhile believes that he is going to sweep her off her feet. We know he just wants her to come along as a sweet thing on the side, since he isn't in the position to marry anyone without money. Marya plays the piano for them, rapturously in love with this man she just met, convinced he is beaming at her when he's playing footsie with her friend.

Yes, bad marriage number 2. Romantic loves looks quite ridiculous in this book so far. It's untrustworthy, and comes more from suggestion than from actual feeling. There's deep feeling in this book, and we saw it a bit from Rostov and his wife I suppose, but Pierre and Helene and Anatole and Marya are two bad, bad matches that are benefiting only Vassily, who is clearly more and more a parasite. A practical parasite, but a parasite nonetheless. I can have patience with Old Andrei being gruff and insulting to his daughter and practically everyone around because he's being honest. Vassily is one large deception - he's probably forgotten who he is himself.

I didn't quote a lot in this one - there's too much that's good. Old Andrei's argument with himself; the scene with Marya, Anatole and Bourienne; even ending with Marya thinking how could she be jealous with two people who love her so much. Oh, disaster.

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