Okay, I’m officially a day behind, and this is Thursday’s chapter.  You’ll have to bear with me while I catch up over the next couple of days.

Have you ever been in the situation in this chapter?  You’re absolutely devastated by something, but somehow the rest of the world goes on around you regardless?  Nikolai comes how, contemplating suicide, devastated by what he’s done to his family, but no one else knows or has any idea.

What’s interesting is that the little details of life in the Rostov house at the beginning of the chapter are all kind of peripheral.  Yes, Natasha and Sonya are singing, but we’re barely paying attention.

So the details that Denisov is head over heels in love with Natasha, and she’s flattered by the attention, are there, but kind of peripheral.  [As a side note, obviously Natasha meant what she said back at the beginning of the book when she said that she didn’t care about Boris any more, because he doesn’t seem to have made an appearance at all . . . Oh well.  How many of you keep in contact with that crush you had when you were 12?]

Then, as Natasha sings, Tolstoy swings the camera back off Nikolai for a bit, and we realise that Natasha, far from being the little girl that she was introduced to us as, may actually be growing up.  Thus, in this simple act of detailing the maturing of Natasha’s singing voice, Tolstoy sets up the much larger and more grown-up part that Natasha is to have in this novel from here on in.

She has stepped out of the sidelines of being a supporting actress and is heading for the limelight . . .

Of course, in the meantime, Nikolai while being blinded by the beauty of the singing is still delaying the moment when he has to have a chat with his Dad . . . Hasn’t this been a great Part 4? One more chapter to go.

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2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 4.15 – Surrounded by Normality

  1. I hadn’t really noticed that until you pointed it out, Matt – the way we see the subtle changes in Natasha, simply by a story about the way she sings. But you’re right – such a clever device for showing us something that is so important about her development as a character, and in so many ways the stage of transition in her life is shown in this simple scene.

    I do love the way, too, that Nikolai’s anguish is, for a moment, completely lost, even to him, by the beauty of her singing – and not only of her singing, but of the music itself, which Nikolai finds himself, almost despite himself, caught up in. I’m not sure if Tolstoy meant this as a way of showing us that our personal turmoils and troubles are all only one part of a much bigger picture, a picture which always have its bits of sheer beauty, indepoendently of whatever we think we’re suffering – I’m not sure if that was his point or not but it was part of what I found in this really extraordinary chapter.

    Welcome back, by the way, Matt!!

  2. Is he going to make her marry Dolokhov to cover this debt? Warped thought, but anything’s possible.

    (I confess I have heard this part through before – but this time, I can’t sit here smugly and say I already know, ‘cause I don’t . . . I’ve forgotten)

    The count is still 454.

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