What didn't happen during this week's reading? Damn. After my complaints about long, tedious battle scenes during last week's reading, this week's reading was like something out of TMZ. Adultery! Duels! Gambling! Spurned marriage proposals! Birth! Death! Freemasonry!
Here is the recap, which I will try to keep brief this week:
- Pierre's issues this week could be summed up as "mo money, mo problems." He suspects Dolokhov is getting it on with his wife Helene. It comes as no surprise that Helene is not happy with Pierre, as their marriage was so cynically conceived. Pierre challenges Dolokhov to a duel, where, surprisingly, Pierre is unscathed, and succeeds in injuring Dolokhov, though not mortally.That wasn't that brief. Things are picking up as we approach the midway point in the book. I agree with something Sean mentioned in the comments, that the characters are beginning to flesh out now that we're a significant way into the book. I'm finding myself more interested in what happens to the characters, now that I can sort of keep them straight. Also, duels, adultery, gambling, and Freemasonry are a good way to get my attention.
- Pierre realizes Helene is a "depraved woman," recalling how when he "'asked her once whether she felt any signs of pregnancy ... she laughed scornfully and said she was not such a fool as to want to have children, and that she would not have children from me.'" (318) This leads to a very ugly scene where Pierre loses his mind, starts screaming at Helene, who is upset with Pierre for having made her into "the laughing stock of all Moscow"; during their fight Pierre "seiz[es a] marble slab from a table" and swings the slab at her. (320) Helene flees, and later, ends up taking "power of attorney for the management of all [Pierre's] estates in Great Russia, which formed the major part of his fortune ...." (Ibid.)
- Back at Bald Hills, everyone is deeply depressed, believing Andrei to have been killed in Austria. Marya is unable to tell Andrei's wife the news. Marie goes into labor, and dies in childbirth, just as Andrei arrives. (327.)
- Dolokhov recovers from his injury and starts spending time at the Rostov's, where he becomes fixated on Sonya, the cousin adopted into the Rostov family. Dolokhov proposes to Sonya, who rejects him, because she's in love with Nikolai Rostov. (333)
- Natasha enjoys herself at a soiree, where she dances with Denisov, who does some kind of crazy (Polish?) dance, impressing everyone at the soiree. (335)
- Dolokhov, jealous of Nikolai Rostov's hold over Sonya, lures Nikolai to his hotel, where Dolokhov is running a card game. Somehow, Nikolai ends the night owing Dolokhov forty-three thousand rubles. (340)
- Denisov proposes to young Natasha, but is told by her mother that she is too young. (345)
- During a trip to Petersburg, Pierre meets a Freemason, Bazdeev, who tells Pierre that his "way of thinking is a lamentable error," and gives Pierre a reference for Count Willarski in Petersburg. (352-53) In Petersburg, Willarski takes Pierre to the local Mason lodge, where Pierre goes through some bizarre, cryptic Freemason induction ceremony. (360)
- Boris sees Helene at a soiree and the two hit it off. Boris, like Helene, is a natural climber. Helene apparently sees potential, and orders him to come to see her: "Il faut absolument que vous veniez me voir ...." (366) During his stay in Petersburg, we learn, "Boris became an intimate of Countess Bezukohv's house." (368)
- Back at Bald Hills, Andrei is fully devoted to taking care of his son, while his father becomes part of the war effort, at the Emperor's behest.
- Pierre begins visiting his remaining estates, and trying to set his serfs free. His intentions are good, but he doesn't understand the details of his holdings. His steward "underst[ands] the intelligent but naive count perfectly and play[s] with him as with a toy," pretending to do Pierre's bidding while lining his own pockets.
On to Week 6!