Reading for Saturday, 24 January
Previously, when Tolstoy has described a battle, it has been from the point of one of the enlisted officers fighting in that battle – people such as Nikolai or Andrei.
Here he pulls off the rather audacious literary trick of telling us what is going on from the point of view of Pierre, a civilian. On the one hand, this provides a sort of comedy to the whole thing – Pierre, dressed in his green coat and his white hat, as out of place as a fish on dry land, wandering further and further towards Borodino.
But, on the other hand, Pierre, despite his naivety, has these flashes of deep humanity where he sees things that others do not. I think this passage sums it up best:
“The strange idea that of those thounsands of men, alive and well, young and old, who had been staring with such light-hearted amusement at his hat, twenty thousand were inevitably doomed to wounds and death (perhaps the very men whom he had seen) made a great impression on Pierre. . . .
“‘They were going into battle and meeting wounded soldiers, and never for a minute paused to think what was in store for them, but went by and winked at their wounded comrades. And of all those, twenty thousand are doomed to death, and they can wonder at my hat! Strange!’ thought Pierre, as he went on towards Tatarinovo.”