This chapter, in some respects, is probably the melodramatic high point of the book. From this point on, War and Peace never really hits these heights of soap opera drama again.
That’s not to say that Tolstoy is out of ideas, or that the book is boring from here on in – far from it. But all of these goings on have served a number of purposes. First, it’s a fascinating development of the characters, and a reminder of how fast the time has gone from Natasha the noisy teenager and Andrei the pessimistic husband through to this current state of affairs.
Secondly, it’s also served to kill the time between 1807, when the Tilsit peace treaty was signed and 1812, which is right around the corner.
So, in effect, as things kind of fall apart here in the idyllic world of Natasha and Andrei, it’s just a metaphor for the general havoc that is going to be wreaked upon Russian civilisation in a very short period of time.
There’s a loss of innocence here that reminds me much of the loss of innocence that is about to come to Russia.
So far, all the affairs and intrigues were happening to other people that we didn’t care about (except maybe Pierre and his unfortunate marriage), but now they come to Natasha who we love (or at least are meant to love – I think she’s meant to be a lovable character). It’s much more personal.
And so also the wars and battles, which have been fought in countries and with allies that we don’t care about that much – Austrians and Poles – is now coming to Russia itself.
Prepare yourself – the great novelistic shift is coming.