Reading for Tuesday, 31 March

It’s funny, we read this chapter, which contains more descriptions of Platon, and we realise what authors can do with characters, depending on how they want to portray them.

In many ways, I don’t think we’ve had a character that spouts this much rubbish since Hippolyte Kuragin, but Tolstoy draws them in completely different ways. Hippolyte is a product of a father and an aristocracy that breeds shallowness.

Platon, by contrast, is portrayed as being simple to start with, but very profound in his own way. The interesting question is whether we (or Pierre) would find this character all that fascinating under different circumstances? Or is it just when things are so terrible, that somebody who would be overlooked (like Platon) becomes somebody so comforting?

I suspect that it is the circumstances that make Pierre value Platon’s company, but then again – have you noticed the way in the entire novel how Pierre interacts with other people?

If you look at Andrei, for instance, Andrei ignores other people. He has his own ideas, and he walks a strong line of holding those ideas regardless of what others think. The only person who ever really got through to him was Natasha, though he did have respect for Pierre, even if he didn’t agree with him.

However, Pierre borrows ideas and worldviews from those he meets. He tries them on, like other people’s clothes. So thus, when he came back from Paris at the start of the novel, he thought Napoleon was a great man. Then he tried (but failed) to borrow the ideas of the aristocracy, but he could never survive in that shallow world. Then he borrowed the ideas of the old Freemason, though he eventually found that lacking.

And now, here he is, finding comfort in the outlook of a peasant.

Hmm . . . I could be wrong, but it would make a tricky essay question.

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2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 12.13 – Platon

  1. That’s a really interesting question Matt – would Platon have “worked” at a different time? As I said in response to your post on yesterday’s chapter, I feel this chapter is perfectly placed precisely because of the bleakness and horror that has gone before it – and so, in that sense, maybe Pierre really did need to be here, at the bottom of the pit, to be able to appreciate the simple and gentle warmth of someone such as Platon. If that’s the case, then I guess Pierre would not be the first person in the world who learned the value of simple things during dark times.

    I think Pierre’s meanderings through life, and through life’s philosophies, constitute, in some ways, the central vein of War and Peace (if there is such a thing as a central vein – I’ve never been good with metaphors!!) … he’s the one who is always searching for something, always feeling somehow out of place and disconnected, and his journey, which is really ultimately the journey of humanity, pretty much weaves through the whole book. So, from that angle, I suppose Pierre’s encounter with Platon is very much in step with the way human beings discover the real meaning of goodness – we discover it not when we’re gorging ourselves at a sumptuous soiree, but when we’re eating a salted baked potato, lying in the mud.

  2. I see Pierre as being a ‘people pleaser’ . . . he seems to need to make people like him, no matter who they are. Very rarely does he do anything to deliberately upset somebody – you couldn’t imagine him telling somebody to take a hike, fly a kite or just plain KMA.

    Yet, Andrei wouldn’t think twice about it. He’s so different from Pierre. He does not need the approval of others.

    I wonder how it would have been had he lived and he and Natasha married. Andrei’s not the kind that would let a woman have a say in matters. Yes, he might have found Natasha to be an entertaining person, and was amused by her antics, but we’ve already seen how he regards the one who plays the part of ‘wife’.

    It’s his way or the highway.

    Still, I like both characters now.

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