Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Super-overdue Week 8 Recap

Great Comet of 1811, as drawn by William Henry Smyth

Week 8 was a long time ago. But I think there was a holiday, there were fireworks, there were parents visiting, and the Week 8 Recap just came out missing. But here it is, in especially abbreviated form:
-Old Prince Bolkonsky is going more senile, spending more time with Mlle. Bourienne, and being even meaner to Princess Marya. (540)

- Pierre and Rastophin discuss the possibility of resisting the French. Rastophin despairs about Russia's ability to resist the French: "French clothes, French thoughts, French feelings!" (545)

- Boris puts on an emo melancholic display, writing dark goth high-school poetry in French ("La mort est secourable ....) for Julie Kuragin, rich heiress. (549) This ends in a fair exchange of Julie's wealth for Boris's show of love. (552)

- An extended scene depicting Natasha's trip to the opera. The scene focuses on the spectacle of the audience, which appears to spend more time watching the others in the audience than watching the opera, which Natasha perceives as an absurd artificiality in which she cannot believe. "The stage consisted of flat boards in the middle, with painted pieces of cardboard on the sides representing trees, and canvas stretched over boards at the back.... One [girl], very fat, ... sat apart on a low stool with a piece of green cardboard glued to the back of it. They were all singing something." (560) In contrast to the pointless charade on the stage, Natasha is gripped by the feeling of exposing herself to the public gaze of the audience. "For a long time she had not experienced that feeling, both pleasant and unpleasant, of hundreds of eyes looking at her bare arms and neck ...." (558) She is also focused on Anatole, who is shamelessly staring at her from his seat in the audience. His sister, Helene, meddling and scheming, introduces him to Natasha; Natasha is, predictably, intoxicated by Anatole's devilish, reckless air.

- Natasha and Anatole meet again at a soiree, where they dance, and Anatole declares his love for her, and his disregard for any promise she may have made to Andrei. He seizes her later and kisses her, in a replay of his action with Mlle. Bourienne at Bald Hills. "Hot lips pressed themselves to her lips ...." (573)

- Natasha writes back to Princess Marya to tell her, "curtly", that she cannot marry Andrei. She plans with Anatole to elope with him. Anatole plans the abduction with Dolokhov and their trusty troika driver, Balaga, who seems to enjoy driving horses to death and whipping peasants. (583) Their plot is discovered (Sonya finds out and tells), and is aborted.

- Pierre confronts Anatole and nearly beats him, but settles for banishing him from Moscow, but not before giving him money and stepping back from the precipice of a duel. (593)

- Andrei returns to Moscow, learns of the affair from Pierre, and declares in short order that he is done with Natasha. (597)

- In a bizarre scene, Pierre goes to comfort Natasha and finds himself declaring that all is not lost for her and that "[i]f I were not I, but the handsomest, brightest and best man in the world, and I was free, I would go on my knees this minute and ask for your hand and your love." (599) This brings some "tears of gratitude" from Natasha. Pierre goes out into the Moscow night, which is lit up by "the bright comet of the year 1812". As he contemplates the comet, "[i]t seemed to Pierre that this star answered fully to what was in his softened and encouraged soul, now blossoming into new life."
And thus ends Volume II. All downhill from here! Hope you are all still enjoying the book. Just a few weeks left. And don't forget to vote for our next book.

1 comment:

  1. What a dick, Bolkonsky the Elder. Weird that a book that is a million pages long should have main characters who are so flat.