Reading for Wednesday, June 10

Now, I must confess, this is the first chapter that has had me scratching my head a bit. I’m not sure whether it would have infuriated the 19th-century equivalent of feminists back in the day, but here we have Natasha who has devoted all her time and energy to her children as a mother.

Now, I don’t have a problem with this – what I find a bit sad is that it sounds like she gave up the sparkly life-loving part of her personality to do so. Surely, Natasha would be a Mum who was full of energy and excitement and would convey that to her children and those around her?

Maybe she is like that . . . but it does sound a bit like Tolstly is saying she gave up the fun-loving part of her nature to become completely family-focused. It’s just sad, because it makes being family-focused sound so boring . . .

Sigh . . . oh well. Maybe this is why they never filmed the epilogue for the Bondarchuk film.

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5 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace E1.10 – Under Petticoat Government

  1. I have to admit that this chapter had much the same effect on me, too, Matt. And I in fact remember a feminist friend of mine once saying how she felt Tolstoy always portrays his female characters in a generally weak way, even when they start out strong. And I suppose she’s right: even the strong women – Natasha, Natasha’s mother, even Marya in a strange sort of way – all end up living in the shadows rather than in the light. And yet maybe that’s exactly what really did happen with women in Tolstoy’s time, whether they were vibrant and spontaneous like Natasha, or full of joy and compassion like her mother, or full of an inner strength like Marya. But certainly the transformation seems most dramatic in Natasha – and I can only feel, from Tolstoy’s description of her, that even he did not think that it was a good thing.

  2. Yes, it is very strange. Only Marya seems to be mostly unchanged from what I remember . . . Natasha seems to have gone the way of Lise Bolkonsky right back in the beginning of the book.

    I do remember someone once saying that Tolstoy was quite misogynist (and apparently the story to read for that one is the short story called “The Kreutzer Sonata”, but I must confess I haven’t read it myself).

  3. We have to depend on Tolstoy to tell us how women were in that time – he’s the one who lived in it.

    Maybe we don’t like how it was, but that’s how it was, I guess.

  4. I kind of relate to Natash here. Like me, I imagine she’s rocking the yoga pants and messy bun. She’s got on an oversized tshirt so she can wrangle the baby with one hand and the nursing bra with the other. Maybe she forgot to brush her teeth that morning…it happens. She doesn’t feel the need to get dressed up for family-they should love her as she is. So, yeah, feminists probably aren’t too happy with this description of Natasha, but who cares? I feel like Natasha is just being real. And it doesn’t seem to hurt her relationship with her husband. I’m a Stay At Home Mom. It’s not the most glamorous occupation, but I would trade it for anything.

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