I’ll still have to hold my thoughts on music in the air for another day or two . . .

But back to War and Peace. Here we find out a bit more about Petya. The first thing I thought when I read this, was how well Tolstoy does families. Even though Petya is not the same as the rest of his family, there is, nonetheless, that same impetuousness that characterises the lot of them.

It makes the father gamble all his money away, it makes the mother lose her temper needlessly at Sonya and “donate” money to poor friends, it’s certainly been the characteristic of Nikolai, it made Natasha throw away her engagement, and here we see it in Petya who just wants to be out on the battlefield, riding a horse in front of people firing at him.

Brilliant, brilliant characterisation.

Then the second thought, which is much more obvious, is how much Petya is still a boy, even though he’s pretending to be a man. It reminds me very much of Nikolai at the banquet, back at the beginning of the book.

Which works beautifully, when we get his little touch of humanity in remembering the French drummer boy. In other circumstances, they’d probably run around and play games together, and Petya knows this. But in this case, there’s a war on . . .

2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 14.7 – Still a Boy

  1. Yes, I never cease to be amazed and impressed by how well Tolstoy draws his characters. As in all his descriptions – of people, of places, of events, of ideas – it’s his ability to draw our attention to the little quirks, the little idiosyncrasies, in ways that seems to fit so comfortably, that makes everything so vivid. In this scene with Petya we see precisely that – that mix of impetuosity with humanity, and adolescent self-conciousness … all told so well, that I, for one, am instantly led to think “Yes, that’s what youth is like,” and, even further, “Yes, that’s what the little brother of Nikolai and Natasha would be like”.

    And you’re right Matt – the way Tolstoy brings those characters together, in families, is just as cleverly done. In the case of the Rostovs there’s even the one black sheep – Vera – who, even by her incongruousness with all the others, seems so instantly recognisable.

    I really can’t think of another writer who comes close to Tolstoy in this ability to describe people and things so well.

  2. Again – may I mention that Nikolai did the same thing in one of the early chapters of the novel – he rode out into the battle when he was told to do something else – I have forgotten exactly what that ‘something else’ was, however.

    But he went riding off with big dreams in his head of being a hero.

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