Reading for Thursday 6/11/08
I think this is possibly the funniest chapter I’ve read so far in the book. I always get a chuckle from Tolstoy’s tongue-in-cheek reading of the Bible that man’s natural state was meant to be one of idleness. It’s not actually correct. If you have a look at the first few chapters of Genesis, you will see that Adam and Eve were created to do work in the Garden of Eden. It just wasn’t going to be hard and frustrating.
Which is very true – after all, I think the problem most people have with work is not that they have to do any work – it’s just that the work they have to do is hard and many jobs seem utterly pointless.
Anyway, back to Nikolai – enjoying his time of guilt-free idleness in the army. But then, as we see, forced to deal with the terrible financial situation his family is in. Now you and I know, of course, that Nikolai has exactly the same temperament as his dad when it comes to money (his Dad’s just better with people), so this is not going to be the most effective financial clean-up the world has ever seen.
But it will be amusing . . . and so Nikolai returns home. (And for a brief moment, we see Tolstoy the mathematician, with his line about the force of attraction and the square of distance.)
I was the first sibling to move out of my house, so I can relate quite well to that bizarre feeling of coming back to your house, and finding that youngest brother’s voice has broken, sister has a fiancee, etc. But Tolstoy captures it rather well.
I didn’t realise quite how sick Andrei was when I read this the first time, but obviously that’s part of what’s keeping him away.