And now the book returns full circle to something we heard planned right back in chapter 1.1 – the scheme to marry the ratbag Anatole off to Prince Bolkonsky’s daughter, Marya (Andrei’s sister).  Outdoing his last appearance at the end of Book 1, old Bolkonsky is in even a fouler mood now.  He knows that the arrival of Prince Vassily and Anatole will spell wedding bells (not to mention that he knows that Anatole is a ratbag) and so he responds in a spectacular display of tantrum throwing.  I must admit, even I found it amusing that he orders his servants to shovel the snow back on to the road, so that his guests can’t arrive easily.

I’ll say more about all of this tomorrow, but I thought I’d point out that, at the end of the chapter, we see Marya head down a similar path to Pierre.  She also decides to just go with the flow and let things happen how they will.  (Only she dresses it up in rather fatalistic, religious terminology – but the idea is the same.)

How will this all pan out?  It’s certainly not looking good . . .

I should start by saying that I thought it was time I updated the MindMap a little bit to reflect the recent change in events.  So please note that a) Pierre and Ellen are now married.  b) I also thought a line might be useful to indicate that Anatole is probably more interested in Mademoiselle Bourienne than Marya.

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5 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 3.3 – Lock Up Your Daughters

  1. I, too, couldn’t hep but notice the parallels between Marya’s and Pierre’s approaches to the who idea of a betrothal. It really does seem that Tolstoy might, at the moment, be showing us the many ways that life can move forward, regardless of what decisions we do or don’t make.

    And I, too, just loved grumpy old Prince Bolkonsky’s decision to have all the snow shovelled back over the driveway. Is it any wonder little Princess Lisa wants to keep out of is way!

    I also found something inexpressibly sad about this chapter – with Lisa and Mlle Bourienne doing their darndest to get Marya looking beautiful – thinking if only they try this, or if only they try that, she look wonderful. But nothing works. And then there’s poor Marya, her eyes filling with tears throughout it all, secretly allowing herself to think what it would be like to hold her baby in her arms.

    In that sense, I find her resignation about her destiny, and even the consolation she seems to find in her faith, to be some deeply, infinitely sad.

  2. Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it, really, about Marya? A normal person in her household situation would have been totally rebellious and off the rails . . . and who would really blame her?

    But it’s her sense of dignity and the fact that she tries to make the best of a situation that she *knows* cannot get better that makes her so interesting. She’s an interesting character, because the Hollywood storytelling side of us (or me, anyway) would have it that she’s not actually *ugly* as such – she’s just a bit plain and perceived that way.

    But Tolstoy is much more brutal – she’s not attractive (except for her eyes) – and that’s all there is to it. She knows it, her dad knows it, and everyone else knows it.

    And, even today, the message is still driven home to women that they are defined by their looks (witness the fact that there is little difference between the front covers of women’s magazines and men’s soft porn magazines). So I wonder how many other Marya’s there are out there, struggling through life, knowing that they are greatly disadvantaged in their society? It’s a sobering thought.

  3. There was something else I wanted to add . . . somebody (I forget just which one of the women) actually figures it out in the end that Marya looked a heck of a lot better in her regular grey dress.

    That, in my opinion, is insightful.

    We’ve got to forgive Tolstoy for being a bit of a ‘sexist’ . . . or whatever the ‘feminists’ would like to call him . . . he’s not a woman, so he’s bound to be weak in dealing with them in his book.

    And we’ve got to remember that in those days, it wasn’t considered to be important, what women really thought about.

    We needed women as writers! The few we had, were writing under pen names!

    Seems to me though, that it was probably the women who did most of the reading.

    BTW . . . I don’t know how true this is and I don’t even remember where I heard or read of it . . . Tolstoy’s wife actually did the handwriting involved when he wrote his novels!

    Can you imagine! She actually sat there while he dictated to her and wrote the stories word for word!

  4. Hi Carly,

    I think the actual version of the story was that Tolstoy wrote it down, but it was his wife who deciphered his handwriting and wrote it out neatly again for the publishers. I can’t remember exactly where I read this, but apparently his original manuscript is all higgledy-piggledy with writing all over the place, making it quite difficult to even work out what the Russian says (let alone translating it into English).

  5. So I have a count of 303 – isn’t that a coincidence – Book 3, Ch 3 . . . and my count this far is 303 . . .

    Mmmm hmmmm . . .

    So there’s Pierre and Helene married off – now Vasily’s gotta’ see if he can get the old Count’s daughter to marry Ratbag . . . er . . . er . . . Anatole.

    Well, we’ll just see about that, won’t we?

    (I, of course, already know, having been to the end of Book 7, but in case you’re new to W & P and have only started following this blog, I don’t want to give it away)

    I’m adding the following people to my character count (303) . . .

    Alpatych –

    “You thought!… Rascals! Blackgaurds!… I’ll teach you to think!” and lifting his stick he swung it and would have hit Alpatych, the overseer, had not the latter instinctively avoided the blow.

    Architect –

    “Do you hear how he’s walking?” said Tikhon, drawing the architect’s attention to the sound of the prince’s footsteps.

    Elizabeth – Princess Elizabeth –

    Perhaps Princess Elizabeth and Princess Mary know. I don’t want him.”

    Katie –
    Now please, do it for my sake. Katie,” she said to the maid, “bring the princess her gray dress, and you’ll see, Mademoiselle Bourienne, how I shall arrange it,” she added, smiling with a foretaste of artistic pleasure.
    Masha –

    The little princess was sitting at a small table, chattering with Masha, her maid.

    Total count – 308

    ————————————————————————

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