This chapter is like a final nail in the coffin to the whole thing.  Andrei finally arrives back in town and Pierre goes to talk to him about what has happened.

If Andrei had been really upset (like Pierre was expecting), we probably would have been able to cope a little easier – because then there might have been a chance of reconciliation.

But as soon as we see Andrei, pretending coldly that he simply doesn’t care – we know that it’s all over.  He’s gone right back to being the cynic that we knew he was.  And we’re left, like Pierre, to feel the pain of the whole situation.

As a side note, we see that Speransky –  the man who had the ear of the Tsar, and the acquaintance that Andrei lost all interest in when he first fell in love with Natasha – has now been exiled.  The significance of this was that there was now a falling out between Russian and France, and the peace of 1807 is about to crack . . .

The whole world is falling apart.

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5 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 8.21 – A Hardened Man

  1. Yes, the world is falling apart, indeed, Matt. Don’t you just love Russian tragedy??!! I couldn’t help but feel that in this chapter we really get to see the extent of that tragedy – a tragedy which, in a way, has brought out the worst in everybody, except, of course, for Pierre. Andrei seems to have morphed into his father in replacing tenderness with scorn and coldness; his father and even his pious sister can barely hide their elation at the demise of a relationsip that they never really accepted anyway (and in fact, none of this would probably have happened if they had embraced the relationship, and Natasha, from the outset), Natasha has tried to kill herself, Sonya is constantly in tears, and sadness and grief have become the new way of life, it seems, for the Rostovs. Pierre alone is trying to hold it all together – to be compassionate to everyone, despite his own torn feelings about it all. Meanwhile, Anatole has quite literally ridden off into the sunset, presumably having a whale of a time with some other trusting, vulnerable, naïve young girl.

    But alongside the sadness and bleakness of all this, I feel that Tolstoy has done an amazing job here in showing us, in just a couple of pages, the enormous range of ways that human beings experience, and respond to, sadness – be it their own or other people’s. It seems that every one of them, except for Pierre, has responded in terms only of how the events impact on themselves, and thus it exposes their own needs and failings, more than anything else. Pierre alone, it seems, realises that this whole thing is, first and foremost, about someone other than himself – and that, to me, is what makes him the hero of this chapter and the one for whom I feel the most sadness of all.

  2. Well, Natasha needed a good shake up, I guess – I know I’ve been hard on her, but having once been a young girl myself, I couldn’t help looking at things realistically . . .

    I’m working in the earlier chapters right now, for our discussion threads at RGG – we’re only at Book I, Ch 10.

    Those folks want to go slowly right now – a chapter a day. At first, I thought they’d want to do 4 to 5 chapters a day, but they’re finding that to be too much.

    I think that’s because there’s just so much to discuss in the individual chapters. So many people to get to know.

    Once we get into the first battle scene, we’ll be rockin’ . . . right now, it’s just the ‘social life’ and the delicious ‘gossip’ about these characters.

    Just love ’em all!

  3. Actually, it’s funny to imagine people starting the book, because that was long ago . . . but then again, we haven’t even got into the philosophical chapters yet, so there’s still plenty to do.

  4. The great thing about your blog Matt is that even those of us who couldn’t keep up can still get a good synopsis of the book, and some nice literary critiques at the same time.

    But then you go and mention the philosophical chapters, so I’m thinking maybe it’s not such a bad thing that I fell off the bandwagon… 😉

    Of course the inspiration for Tchaikovsky’s moderately successful orchestra + cannon piece is coming up.. that’ll be worth hanging around for…

  5. But re Andrei’s apparent uncaring coldness, isn’t it obvious he’s just covering up? Have you guys ever been, or met, a man who’s just found out he’s been made a monkey of by the woman he loves? It’s not a pretty sight and biology never intended it to be. The wounded male ego is a ferocious thing – mess with it at your peril. Tolstoy’s telling it like it is.

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