Monday, July 19, 2010

Volume II, Book IV, Chapter IX

Natasha is bored, restless, unhappy.

It's near Christmas, and Tolstoy sets the tone by telling us it doesn't feel like Christmas, but everyone has to to go through the motions anyway. Nikolai is napping, Sonya's working on a pattern, and Natasha is working on creating some drama.

She keeps saying to her mother, "I want him. I want him," referring to Andrei. She goes through the house, enlisting servants to various busywork. T even says she has no idea why she's asking or for what, but does and makes something up. She sends one to get oats, and another to get a rooster, and another to get some chalk. Still another to heat up the samovar.

She doesn't necessarily come across as spoiled, and T says that she asks most of the servants as if testing them, not believing they really will do anything she asks. They do. I think this kind of thing, where servants with individual personalities and characteristis quickly, is from Tolstoy's own experience as a count. This is how servants were treated, and what they did. The line between family and servants seems to move all the time. They are obviously very familiar and forgiving with each other.

Natasha tells her mother that her youth is being wasted, her loveliness, her. No one can do anything. The sameness of the day to day is driving her crazy, and the sameness of all the people. She keeps thinking things are happening in the way they have happened before. She seems off-kilter.

The chapter ends with her and Nikolai retiring to their favorite corner in the sitting room, where they have their best conversations. Maybe the mood will pass.

We have so much to keep us entertained now - it's a great exercise to think of all the things they didn't have 200 years ago. I guess I'd be stir-crazy, too.

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