This chapter is again very clever (and quite terrifying) both for what it says and what it does not say.  If you were to analyse, to try to turn it into a movie scene, you’d be relying heavily on your actors, because all that’s really happening here is that Anatole joins Natasha and Co in their box and has a few chats about nothing and invites her to a costume ball.

But look what’s going on underneath . . . Natasha knows that no matter how innocent the conversation, she is well and truly cheating on Andrei with this guy.  The little argument that she has in her head when she gets home about “I didn’t do anything” vs “Then why do I feel so guilty?” is quite human and quite spot on.

I think it’s a sobering reminder that affairs and cheating can not simply be defined sexually.  They’re also defined by what goes on in your mind as well . . . Tolstoy may well have been thinking of the words of Jesus himself, when He said (slightly paraphrased by me), “If you look at another woman lustfully, you’ve committed adultery in your heart.”

The saga continues tomorrow . . .

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6 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 8.10 – An Affair of the Mind

  1. Well, Matt, I’m probably going to have to disagree with you a bit here. You see, I don’t see this as a chapter about Natasha cheating on Andrei – but rather a chapter that shows us what was sure to be the consequences of such a harsh, even cruel, position that Andrei put her in when, without discussion or negotiation, he unilaterally left her on her own for a year. And the torment she feels I see not as the torment of guilt so much as the torment of having to face the reality of those consequences – that when the man she loved has left her, a young woman, so bubbling over with love as she is, a love that he ignited in her, was going to be desperately in need of something to fill the space that his absence has left. Remember – this whole absence was to meet Andrei’s needs: his need for his father’s approval, and his need, to an extent, to put Natasha to the test.

    The tragedy, though, is that we can see even at this stage that Anatole will never provide for Natasha the love she so desperately yearns for. That’s what she could have got from Andrei. But now we can see the whole thing in jeopardy – but not, I feel, because Natasha seems about to cheat on him, but because Andrei took away from her the one thing that would have made her feel complete – himself.

    But however we interpret this chapter from a morl point of view, it really is very, very insightful writing, exactly as you describe it – with so much told to us by what is not said.

  2. Actually, you have reminded me, Ian, that I should be careful about what I say here – it’s not entirely Natasha’s fault. Andrei should have stood up more for his old man, and this whole separation thing was partly because the old cynical side of his nature wanted to see whether this girl could still love him after a year apart.

    However, having done the long-distance thing myself, I don’t believe that was a strong enough excuse for Natasha’s behaviour. She knows it as well, that’s why she’s trying to rationalise it . . .

    Anyway, on to the next chapter.

  3. And I’m leaving this blog as a link to new readers – so don’t be surprised to see me heading up the ‘rear guard’ in the earlier blogs in Book 1, here at One Year War and Peace.

  4. Now I’m thinking of a time in my childhood – I was about 14 or so – a male dog came rushing up to me, jumped up and licked me all over the face.

    I was so pleased – I’ve always loved animals, and I enjoyed the love from this dog.

    My girlfriend was disgusted – she said she could see the dogs ‘thing’ all excited . . .

    I felt awful about it afterwards.

    That’s what I’m feeling for Natasha, getting this attention from Ratbag!

    I really should forget that I know where this is leading – but isn’t it obvious that it’s leading to ‘no good’?

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