Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Volume II, Part V, Chapter II

Meanwhile, in Moscow as well, old Nikolai Bolkonsky (the old count - Andrei's father) is being hailed as a center of opposition to the government. He's as cantankerous and senile as ever.  He's making his daughter's life hell.

She can't go out and be social without him, since he won't permit her.  He's becoming closer to Mlle Bourienne, which angers Marya.  Julie, her friend in letters, seems completely different to her and is entertaining suitors.  The old count, meanwhile, turns away any suitors Marya may have. She finds herself getting angry with Nikolushka, then crying at how awful she is.

Her father actually kisses Mlle Bourienne's hand and Marya blows up at her.  The next day, the old count has Mlle Bourienne served first, and when one of the servants forgets, he explodes and yells that Bourienne is first in the house now, and that if Marya forgets herself again he'll show her who's boss and she should apologize.

So she does, and feels bad because she sees how old he's getting, and how could she be so angry at such a helpless man. 

This is one twisted relationship.

As time passes, it's amazing the clear light he's throwing on all of these dynamics. What might have been entertaining or endearing is now close to reprehensible, sad.  The relationships are souring, and people are being challenged. Their making choices to remain in ruts, or not even choosing - unknowingly staying where they are on their paths.  Some are good possibly, but most seem frustrating - who's even headed for any happiness at this point.

The brilliance of it is you can see why they're headed this way- the thousand tiny little steps that have backed them into these corners. I have a feeling this is not a romance. He's unsparing - not cruel at all - but unsparing how he looks at all of them.

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