Reading for Monday 9 March
I’m surprised I don’t remember reading this chapter the first time I read the book, because it really is the most disturbing chapter I’ve encountered in War and Peace to date. It certainly hasn’t been pleasant watching men go off to war and be killed and maimed.
But nothing really prepares you for the violence that Rastoptchin unleashes. Especially because Tolstoy’s prose stays at the same calm, slightly satirical level that it’s always been. But Tolstoy doesn’t need to preach in this chapter. The events speak for themselves.
When things get out of control, the unspeakable happens. The force of commanders and law breaks down when the weight of the people press against it. What’s ironic is that, in this chapter, the leader that is meant to control the mob and enforce order is the very one who unleashes disorder and chaos.
In a fit of petty rage, no one is human any more.