Let’s Read This Thing : War and Peace is my attempt to jot down notes and reactions to this monstrous novel that I’m reading for the first time. Spoilers might happen, no promises. But they are probably kind of vague?
Volume II, Part 2 continues with the theme of disillusionment, though this time we get a nice dose of religion to top it off. though we’ll see that a willingness to help your fellow man doesn’t actually help sometimes, and sometimes it can even make the situation.
So remember when I talked about chapters free from vast swaths of philosophical moralizing? NO MORE. Mr. Pierre Bezhukov, meet the Freemasons.
Pierre, still an emotional powderkeg thanks to his dueling guilt and his rage over his awful wife, runs into a strange in a train station who knows exactly who he is. Old Pierre is just the right amount of susceptible. After a flurry of persuasion the former atheist converts, joins the shadowy group through a series of rituals, denounces his anger and weakness for women, and sets out to make things better for all men- starting with the serfs on the vast estates that he owns.
But because you can’t change your entire situation and outlook with the snap of a finger, Pierre jumps into his new crusade too blindly. As with so many times before (his marriage, anyone?) he is taken advantage of by others who wish to exploit his ideals. Without being wholly aware of it, he makes things even crummier for the serfs… though he gets to chum around with Andrei for a while at least… and sort of make him happier?
Before he gets there though we have Andrei in a funk, a sick baby, and Marya allowing herself to be walked all over. In previous chapters, we saw her insistence on staying with her father due to family loyalty and religious devotion. Did she make the right call on that? I mean, Anatole was probably worse either way. Marya thinks she is doing the pious thing, while Andrei thinks he is doing the logical one by ignoring the plights of good and evil (at least until he chats with Pierre.) Everyone is trying to do what they think is personally right, but is anyone really happy or fulfilled?
Finally, on the topic of fulfillment- Nikolai seeks his own redemption after stupidly screwing his family out of a lot of money. He gets entangled with an amoral officer and seeks to do a friend right… but faces the double horrors of beaurocratic inefficiency and war time medicine in the process. As the chapter comes to a close the armies of Russia and France come to a truce, and Nikolai deals with more frustrations and injustices. Men who do good are punished, while men who did nothing at all are arbitrarily rewarded. Life just isn’t fair.
We still have three more chapters in Volume II, and already so much has happened! My self-imposed deadline to finish it is the 11th… so I’ll see you soon for the next write up.