This is all about Pierre. He feels something is coming, something that will involve him. A friend introduces him to the prophecy in the Apocolypse of St. John, that Napoleon is the Anti Christ – by putting “L’empereur Napoleon” next to corresponding values of the Hebrew alphabet, the numbers add up to 666. Pierre desperately wants to have this happen for him, since he feels so bad about himself, that he bastardizes his name to “l’Russe Besuhof” after trying several spellings of his name, and ends up with 666 (the e in “le” would’ve made is 671, so he drops it). So it’s in this ecstatic, magical thinking he’s trying to find a solution:
His love for Miss Rostov, the Anitchrist, Napoleon’s invasion, the comet, 666, l’empereur Napoleon and l’russe Besuhof – all that together must ripen, burst, and lead him out of that spellbound, worthless world of Moscow habits in which he felt himself imprisoned, and bring him to a great deed and great happiness.
Pierre intercepts a letter to the Rostovs with news of Nikolai’s decoration and also of Andrei’s promotion. He would have liked to have been a soldier, but he couldn’t for being a mason, and also for now being numbered by the beast – “he was therefore not to undertake anything, but to wait for what was to happen.”
Pierre visits the Rostovs. Much dinner conversation. Petya wants to enlist. Much patriotism. Pierre is confused – “Natasha’s unusually brilliant and animated eyes, constantly turning to him with more than affection, had brought him to that state.”
He leaves, upsetting Natasha, but telling her he cannot visit her as often. He gives no more reason than things to do, but he’s in love with her.
This is a grand, sweeping description of Petya going to attempt to enlist. He is going to try and speak to the sovereign directly, but gets caught up in the throngs of people to see him. He is almost trampled. He is swept up in the excitement. Near the end of the chapter, the sovereign walks out on to a balcony and drops a bit of a biscuit, which is picked up by a cabby. People throng to him. The sovereign asks for a plate of biscuits to throw into the crowd. Petya rushes forward trying to get a biscuit (Interestingly, as historically accurate as a lot of this novel is, this scene is made up completely – there is no biscuit dropping mentioned anywhere in the history of this time). Petya knocks an old woman out of the way, and then stops her arm with his knee to get a biscuit.
You really get an idea of how frenzied people were for their Tsar. It’s wild. The writing is exciting, of course, and you’re swept up in it.
6 months ago