Reading for Monday, 23 March
But here, in the midst of Nikolai having fun, the issue of Princess Marya comes up again.
Tolstoy paints Nikolai in a strange way. In many ways, he’s quite immature – at the beginning of the evening, he’s completely riling up the husband of the blonde wife he’s chatting up – but by the end of the evening, he’s seeing how he can marry Princess Marya.
He sounds as if he has trouble focusing on any woman except the one that’s right in front of him . . . but that is exactly what makes him Nikolai and not some other character in this novel.
This plot development also starts to seal Sonya’s fate . . .
My favourite moment is when Nikolai, obviously confused by his relationships, finds himself confiding in the governor’s wife. It feels very much like the early 19th-century equivalent of visiting a psychologist.