I feel quite sorry for Sonya.  While formal proposal of marriage and refusals are perhaps a bit old-fashioned in today’s day and age, nonetheless, I can’t help but notice that her plight is quite modern.

I’m sure there are many single women out there today who will agree that they are caught between Mr I-Can’t-Commit and Mr I’m-No-Good-For-You.  Sonya has at least had the sense to stay away from Dolohov, but really – is there any good to be had by waiting on Nikolai Non-Commital Rostov?

Also amusing is the ever-present Natasha in the Rostov house.  She’s smart enough to know a) that Dolohov is a no-good and b) that Sonya and Nikolai probably aren’t destined for each other – but she never really offers serious moralising or relationship advice.  She’s got the observational skills of an adult, without really the judgment or maturity.

But then again, from all we’ve read about the adults in the book, what is maturity?  The Kuragin family (Anatole, Ippolit and Helene) are all very sophisticated in public, but have little in the way of maturity or decency.  Pierre can’t seem to work out how life works at all.  Andrei (at least up until his brush with death) viewed all life through a very dark pair of sunglasses.

So, in the end, Natasha is probably getting closest to the voice of wisdom out of the lot of them.


2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 4.11 – Sonya’s Refusal

  1. There is certainl something very poignant about this whole thing with Sonya and Nikolai – and, when the characters are painted with the skilled brush of Tolstoy, you can’t help but find yourself speculating about why they made the choices they made, even when Tolstoy doesn’t tell us directly.

    So, with Sonya and Nikolai, I felt that part of it was just that they were in such different places – like so many people at that age, the guy is still wanting to go out and play and the girl is ready to settle. I think there’s a bit of that with them – but I couldn’t help but wonder what the effect of Nikolai’s mum’s disapproval was, too, not to mention the hints of social taboo from others, at cousins (albeit second cousins) having a relationship. No matter how strong a person you might be, it can be very hard for someone to feel enough strength to maintain a relationship when the people around you – including the family you love (and we know how loving and close the Rostov family is) – are disapproving.

    I don’t know if Tolstoy meant any of this to be a part of his subtext, but I couldn’t help wondering how things might perhaps have unfolded differently if Sonya’s and Nikolai’s relationship had been embraed and affirmed by others a little more. I think this chapter shows us, at very least, that there was, and probably always will be, a very special kind of love between them.

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