Reading for Thursday 02/10 – 5.13

This chapter is a rather amusing little throwaway moment, which I think is Tolstoy having a go at the different levels of belief.

I’m not sure if that’s the right way to phrase it, but basically, in this world, people can often look down on other people’s beliefs by making a judgment call about other people’s intelligence levels.

So, for instance, we in the Western world might look down on the beliefs of native people living in some remote jungle somewhere precisely because the people live in a remote jungle, and don’t know as much as we in the advanced West.

In the meantime, however, even in Western nations, some of us look down on Christians or Muslims, because they seem to hold blind beliefs rather than being “rational”.

If I’m right about that, then this chapter is kind of a companion to the last one.  In 5.12, Andrei didn’t really buy into the whole Freemasonry thing, and because Pierre is somewhat naive, that would also cause him to be sceptical.  What’s funny in this chapter is that both Andrei and Pierre find the pilgrims amusing, because the pilgrims are very naive and unknowledgeable.  It’s just ironic that Pierre immediately sees through the scam of the weeping icon, without pausing to think about his own Freemasonry.

Hmm . . . not sure if that thought made any sense.  But we’ll move on.  I liked the bit where the little old lady talked about the general who didn’t believe, who went and gave his star (given to him by the Tsar) to the icon of the holy mother.  Andrei’s line is priceless: “And didn’t they make the holy mother a general?”


2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 5.13 – God’s Folk

  1. Yes, your explanation of Marya’s “people of God” makes a lot of sense Matt – and while I hadn’t at first seen the connection with the previous chapter, I think you’re right. It’s all so much about our attitudes to other people’s attitudes.

    I just love this chapter – and I think it might be the first time we have met really poor, and “on the fringe” characters. Despite the enormous variety of people who populate the pages of War and Peace, most of them are clearly well placed members of mainstream, or even privileged, society. But Marya’s “people of God” are, to me, more like characters you would expect to meet in Dostoevsky than in Tolstoy – kind of decrepit, simple, poor, dislocated from regular society.

    But what is so clever here, is not just Tolstoy’s portrayal of them (which, in itself, is so well done, I think) but, more importantly, what their presence at Bald Hills tells us about Marya, Andrei and Pierre. And this has a lot to do with what you pointed out, Matt, about the ways in which we accept mor don’t accept other people’s beliefs – often based on our own judgements about their worth as people.

    We see Marya’s simple devoutness, Andrei’s pompous cynicism, and Pierre’s bumbling curiosity, just in the way they each talk to this motley crew of pilgrims. If we had read only this chapter, we would still know so much about each of these characters, and their attitudes to life and to other human beings.

  2. A ‘wallet’ on her back . . . isn’t that odd? Guess it means a ‘backpack’, something similar to what we’d carry on a bicycle ride or a hike.

    Here’s the people being added to my count:

    General –

    There was a general who did not believe, and said, ‘The monks cheat,’ and as soon as he’d said it he went blind. And he dreamed that the Holy Virgin Mother of the Kiev catacombs came to him and said, ‘Believe in me and I will make you whole.’ So he begged: ‘Take me to her, take me to her.’ It’s the real truth I’m telling you, I saw it myself.

    God’s Folk – Crazy Cyril

    Crazy Cyril says to me (he’s one of God’s own and goes barefoot summer and winter), he says, ‘Why are you not going to the right place?

    God’s Folk – Pelageya

    Pelageya interrupted her companion; she evidently wished to tell what she had seen.

    God’s Folk – Young Man

    “Mais, ma bonne amie,” said Prince Andrew, “vous devriez au contraire m’etre reconnaissante de ce que j’explique a Pierre votre intimite avec ce jeune homme.” *

    * “But, my dear, you ought on the contrary to be grateful to me for explaining to Pierre your intimacy with this young man.”

    God’s Folk – Woman & 2 Women

    A woman, bent with age, with a wallet on her back, and a short, long-haired, young man in a black garment had rushed back to the gate on seeing the carriage driving up. Two women ran out after them, and all four, looking round at the carriage, ran in dismay up the steps of the back porch.

    Ivanushka –

    “Ah, and Ivanushka is here too!” said Prince Andrew, glancing with a smile at the young pilgrim.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s