Friday, August 27, 2010

Volume III, Book I, Chapter VIII

Andrei is looking for Kuragin to avenge Natasha. He follows him to Petersburg, then finds he is in Turkey so gets posted there. Once he gets there, Kuragin has gone back to Russia. His life gets a little easier, but the betrayal by Natasha “struck him the more strongly the more he tried to conceal its effect on him from everyone.” The sky is low and clear to him again, as opposed to how it was on the field when he almost died. He annoys his General with his constant activity (he’s industrious), so he’s granted a transfer back to the Western Army.
Andrei goes back to visit Bald Hills, colored by his recent experience with Natasha. He doesn’t feel at home. His father is crankier than ever, and more mistrustful of the world. Andrei, at his father’s goading, tells him what he thinks of Mlle Bourienne, and that his father is being unnecessarily harsh to Marya. His father calls him out for “judging”, which is true irony, being who he is, and throws him out. Marya convinces him to stay one more day, during which she asks him to forgive his father. He cannot, he says, as that’s a woman’s place, but realizes if she is begging for forgiveness for him, he should have punished him long ago – and that leads him to his hatred of Kuragin, whom he vows once again to find. He feels like his son will grow into these people - “the deceived or the deceiver”. He says to himself , “I’m going to the army – why? I don’t know myself, and I wish to meet a man whom I despise, in order to give him an occasion to kill me and laugh at me!” All that seemed coherent seems ridiculous and incoherent to him now.

This is a bleak chapter. It’s brilliant how Tolstoy conveys Andrei’s sense of distance from his family. He’s at a bit of a remove to start with, but you can feel how his heart has been broken. It was broken before, with Liza, but this has a different quality to it. Contrasting him with Rostov and Nikolai’s love for Sonya, Andrei feels more aware of his responsibility, and also to honor and morality. He’s not completely in it for himself, but from his coldness you might think so. His abandonment of his son in this chapter is off-putting. He just stops in the middle of a story that he’s telling his son and leaves the room, realizing he feels nothing for him – he has no tenderness, and his son only reminds him of when he was happy. Poor kid. It’s kind of a shocking moment. Andrei does seem a little self-obsessed here, but somehow it feels like he’s on his way to something. Shocking moment with the son, though.

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