Reading for Saturday, 27 December

Now this chapter is rather amusing.  We switch back to the unwell Natasha and Tolstoy uses this as an excuse to spend an entire chapter taking a sledgehammer to the medical profession.

Granted, medicine has come a long way since the 1800s, and if history is any guide, there could be a lot of things that we do now that we’ll look back in 50 years time and say, “What on earth were we thinking?”

But is it really as bad as Tolstoy puts out?  That because every individual is unique, there’s no real way of treating anything?

Anyway, as long as you’re not a doctor, or can take all of this with a grain of salt, it’s actually quite amusing as Tolstoy tells us about all the placebo benefits of consulting doctors.  It makes the doctors feel special, it makes the family feel like they’re doing something rather than nothing, it gives Sonya a sense of purpose making sure Natasha takes her medicine, and it even gives Natasha something to do (trying to avoid taking the medicine).

All very amusing . . . but, in the end, it’s as her depression eases that she gets well.

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One thought on “One-Year War and Peace 9.16 – Quacks, The Lot of Them

  1. I don’t think I quite sahre Tolstoy’s total cynicism towards doctors, either. But I do tend to agree with his point about the power of the placebo – and how, when someone is ill, everyone has to feel they’re doing something … none of it makes the person better, but it certainly makes everyone feel better. Without getting too over-zealous (hopefully!) in trying to bring all of Tolstoy’s many threads together, this little picture does perhap fit in, yet again, with the bigger picture of history that Tolstoy is painting – the idea that we like to feel that we are driving change, making a difference, when in reality things mve forward by laws much more complicated and integrated than anything our individual sense of self-determination can ever influence. I’m not for a moment saying I agree with that – but I think that’s what Tolstoy is telling us, and this image of a family dealing with illness is perhaps a kind of microcosm of that.

    Anyway, all that aside, it’s good that Natasha’s getting better. Things just aren’t the same without her!

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