I don’t know about you, but I found this chapter to be rather sad. In the conversation between Boris and Pierre, Tolstoy masterfully portrays a subtle irony: both of these boys are on the poor end of the aristocratic scale (we’d probably still say they’ve got life pretty good), but the way they treat one another is quite different.
Boris is cold, impersonal and sarcastic. He’s quick to come out and say that he and his mother are not after any of Count Bezukhov’s money, knowing full well that the opposite is true. Pierre, meanwhile, completely sympathises, because everyone treats him as if he is after his father’s money – thus the reason that everyone keeps telling him to go away while seeing his dying father. But Pierre’s attitude is quite innocent – he’s not after the money.
In fact, in this chapter, Tolstoy beautifully reveals that he is actually quite lonely. Of all the people trying to access Count Bezukhov, it’s quite clear that Pierre is the only one who is interested in seeing the man himself, not just trying to angle himself into the old man’s favours.
But to me, the poignant moment was at the end of Boris’ and Pierre’s conversation, where Pierre has been glad of the chance to talk to someone and looks forward to talking to Boris more – even though Boris couldn’t care less about Pierre. As Tolstoy puts it, “As so often happens with young people, especially if they are in a position of loneliness, he felt an unreasonable tenderness for this youth, and he firmly resolved to become friends with him.”
I think Tolstoy is spot on with his characterisation again. I would argue that if you’ve never known what it is like to be a lonely person desperately wanting to be friends with someone else who really doesn’t care less – I would argue you’ve somehow blanked out your teenage years. Or is that just me? Can you relate to this chapter?