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.