Now that I’m able to read it slowly, the interaction between Nikolai and his father is even more poignant here, when we remember the earlier descriptions of Count Rostov as a gambler (part of the reason for his financial problems), we realise that Count Rostov is seeing – to his great sadness – the same character flaws in the son.

How can he condemn in Nikolai what he has often been guilty of himself?  But yet there is that beautiful moment when Nikolai finally begs his forgiveness.

Then, in the meantime, we have the somewhat amusing (as long as you’re not Denisov) proposal to Natasha and its subsequent refusal.  I’ve always had some pity on a guy who gets steeled up to ask the question, only to be given the flick.  And by the girl’s Mum, no less!  Still – he probably could have thought of the age gap before proposing to a 14-year-old . . .

I’m fast appreciating Tolstoy’s way of wrapping up the individual parts of War and Peace.  Each part almost starts to feel like a little novella with characters that we’re familiar with, rather than one big whole.  But isn’t that what life feels like?  A series of little moments, rather than a big epic story?

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2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 4.16 – A Confession & A Proposal

  1. You know, I had completely forgotten that Papa Rostov had a bit of a penchant for gambling too – and you’re right, Matt, it does make this scene all the more poignant. It really is a very effective juxtaposition of the two relationships – the father/son, and the moher/daughter – in the Rostov family. I think the thing I like about the way Tolstoy puts these two together is that it show us that there are so many different ways that a family can experience and express its love for one another. Whether it’s the poignant feelings of remorse and guilt that Nikolai has towards his father, the sense of shame and resignation that seems reflected back to ikolai by the old count, or whether it’s the old Countess’s mixture of concern and irritation towards Natasha, or Natasha longing on th one hand to take control of the situation herself and yet, on th other hand, still relying so heavily on her mother for guidance and support. They’re all different sides of the one coin (can a coin havefour sides???) – how a family, whose default position is one of love and warmth and happiness – deals with one another’s personal turmoils and problems. It kind of pus an interesting slant, I think, on Tolstoy’s famous opening line to his later novel, Anna Karenina, where he says that all happy families are alike and every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. I think we have just seen in this chapter four very different ways of a happy family finding a way of preserving its happiness.

  2. I’m sorry to see this book come to a close; the story has been so intriguing. Though I too agree with Natasha’s mother – it was ridiculous for Denisov to propose to her – I found it terribly romantic.

    I know I’m supposed to be one of those creatures (women) who aren’t interested, but I’m looking forward to getting back to the battlefront – I didn’t think I’d like it much, but I guess I got used to being there.

    My count is 454

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