Reading for Thursday, 15 January

As Marya talks to the peasants, you realise that they really are on their own wavelength here.  But I think it highlights something universal that, certainly, most social workers would agree with.

You can offer help, but do people want it?  Is what you think best for somebody what they think is best for them?  In this case, even though the peasants were being offered safety and security, the idea of leaving was more obnoxious to them than being captured by the French.

Were they stupid?  Maybe – but they had a connection with the land, and that can’t be ignored.  I think it’s interesting, because it’s only now that Tolstoy is really starting to make these peasant characters emerge from the background.  Previously, they were kind of just getting the horses ready and looking after the gardens.

But they are people themselves.  As is everybody in War and Peace, really.

2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 10.11 – Not Leaving

  1. I think your social work analogy is quite apt here, Matt. While Marya woul not for a moment think of herself in this way, she was, I think, offering something pretty close to welfare to the peasants. I think part of their resistance to her offers was a resistance to that sense of “welfare” – but I also feel it probably went deeper than that. These were, after all, mutinous peasants – they were feeling more and more mistrustful of the aristocracy. They had had assurances that the French would look after them and they really had no less a reason to believe that than they had to trust their Russian masters. I suspect they were reluctant to assist Princess Marya to leave, taking everything (inluding the horses and carts) with her, because that would leave them stranded, disempowered. It’s true that they had a connection to the land – and also to their homes. They didn’t want to leave that behind, but nor did they want to assist her to take everything from them. Here was a bunch of people wanting to make a stand – their own stand – and that was precisely the bit that Princess Marya just couldn’t understand.

  2. They had pride . . . they were quite capable of working the land themselves, and were more or less used to keeping themselves employed, giving them a sense of ownership, of control over their own lives.
    They suspected Marya wanted to take them away to make slaves of them again.

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