The sad thing is that despite the fact we’ve read about two major battles, none of the major characters in this novel have died until now. And who would have thought it would be Lise?
I think what makes it so terrible is that all of the superstitions came true – she was always worried that something would go wrong in childbirth (thus why they had a doctor, etc.) and it did. Everybody was wandering around the house hoping that if they said nothing that it would be a good birth – and it was the worst kind possible.
I checked with Rachel (who is more the expert on these types of things) as to what would have gone wrong, and she said that back then, before cesareans, if a baby got stuck or in the wrong position, it could take hours to get out, and there was a good possibility that the woman die of blood loss or exhaustion. We certainly have a much better rate of successful childbirth now than we did back then.
So, yeah, all nightmares come true for Lise there. (Note to self – never give War and Peace to any expecting mothers to read.)
However, it’s mainly with Andrei that this chapter is concerned. The one thing we’ll never know is whether he would have treated Lise differently after his brush with death on the battlefield. We know it shifted his outlook on life somehow, and he may have made a better husband – but we’ll never know.
That’s my explanation for why his grief is so great, and his guilt is so strong in this chapter. And can anything be more pitiful than Andrei not being able to be in the same room for his son’s baptism, for fear that he might see his son accidentally drowned? This, from the man who was quite happy to grab a flag and run straight into the French army. Death impacts people profoundly . . .