Sunday, June 6, 2010

Volume II, Book III, Chapter XI

We're back with the Rostov's who now are in debt. They still host everyone, and the count is genial as ever, but they're in bad financial straights. The people in Petersburg who they hosted in Moscow now look down on them as not being in proper high society, but they still have dinners, and Pierre and Boris come.

And Berg, who is now obsessed with Vera, having claimed he would have her for a wife four years before. He proposes, and "after the first feelings of perplexity that Berg's proposal aroused in the parents, the festivity and joy usual on such occasions installed themselves in the family, yet the joy was not sincere, but external...It was as if they were ashamed that they loved Vera so little and were now so eager to get her off their hands"

Tolstoy describes Berg talking to a friend about the engagement " his comrade, who he called his friend only because he knew that all people had friends." Such a great way to put it, and Berg seems such a perfect match for the sour Vera. It's clear he expects money, and goes to the count to find out how much the dowry is. The count, of course, has spent through his daughter's inheritance. They've lost one property, defaulted on the mortgage of the other, and now only have one. So sad. They're sweet people. I hope this works out, because I have a feeling that Vera could make everyone's lives hell if it didn't. The count offers Berg and 80,000 ruble promissory note, but Berg says he's only take cash, and wants 30,000 up front. Or at least 20,000. Nice doing business with you.

It's funny, too, how Tolstoy puts in Berg's voice what he thinks of Natasha - "The other sister--same family, but something quite different, an unpleasant character, and none of that intelligence, and all that, you know?..It's unpleasant..."

Now, since we all love Natasha at this point, it's clear where T's sympathies lie. It's not that he stacks the deck - I don't think he dislikes his characters or creates villians. It's just clear who's unlikeable and why. Berg is unlikeable. So is Vera. They're great for each other, and they can dislike everyone else.

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