I remember this particular chapter because the Russian Bondarchuk film (picking up on the throwaway sentence that these two conversations were occurring at the same time) had a split screen – in one third of the screen, Natasha and her mother had their bedtime conversation and in the other two thirds, Andrei and Pierre had theirs.
And, in astonishing real-time synchronicity (eat your heart out, Jack Bauer!), neither of them spoke over the top of the other! The awkward pauses in one conversation became the talking moments for the other pair.
Anyway, back to the book, which instead puts the conversations one after the other, in a far less gimmicky manner. The most interesting thing, to me, is the reaction of the confidants to the lovers’ confessions.
Natasha tells her mother that she is in love – but her mother’s reaction is one of fear. Of what, we’re not sure. Is it Andrei’s reputation as a sourpuss? Is it her daughter’s age? Is it just that she never thought of her being up and married this fast? Not sure . . . but it’s an interesting reaction.
Meanwhile, Pierre too has an interesting reaction. Enthusiastically smiling and saying, “Yeah, go for it!” (or words to that effect) to Andrei, while knowing that their happiness is helping to tip him into an even worse depression. Even as his wife downstairs entertains some Prince who had become a regular visitor, he knows he will not enjoy that sort of happiness in his own life.
But then again – the role of the sad friend who never has things work out right – is a great one in classicl literature and not something we see so much of in recent years in stories. I’ve just been recently rewatching the old BBC Charles Dickens serial of Martin Chuzzlewit. There’s a character there called Tom Pinch. He’s as ugly as can be, but has a heart of gold. He’s in love with the main girl of the story – but he’s also friends with the man she loves. So Tom helps them both, never revealing his true feelings – and remains a tragic character.
So unlike modern romance films, which seems to work out so well for all involved – these more Romantic (as in era) stories can often inject the love story with elements of sadness like this.
All good stuff for us readers, of course. See you tomorrow.