Exit, waltzing with a bear

Last night I couldn’t sleep.

On the plus side, I’ve now read the next five chapters.

Here’s what I discovered.

Discovery #1. Prince Andrei is a misogynist. He’s bored and depressed, and he blames it on women–particularly on his wife, Lise, who he imagines has sapped him of all his vigor; more generally, he blames his listlessness on society, which he thinks of as fatally feminized–“drawing rooms, gossip, balls, vanity, triviality” (29).

Discovery #2. Pierre is my favorite. He is dreamy and idealistic and dissolute. He promises Andrei, his best friend, that he won’t go carousing with hussars, as is his habit, but then …

… he desired so passionately to experience again that dissolute life so familiar to him, that he decided to go. And at once the thought occurred to him that the word he had given meant nothing, because before giving his word to Prince Andre, he had also given Prince Anatole his word that he would be there; finally he thought that all these words of honor with were mere conventions, with no definite meaning, especially if you considered that you might die the next day, or something so extraordinary might happen to you that there would no longer be either honor or dishonor. That sort of reasoning often came to Pierre, destroying all of his decisions and suppositions. He went to Kuragin’s. (31)

This is brilliant. Oh, Pierre. Dude. I feel you.

Discovery #3. When hussars carouse, they carouse¬†hard.¬†I am honestly still not sure exactly what happened, but there was a lot of wine, a good deal of guffawing and smashing, and a bet with an Englishman about drinking a bottle of rum while hanging out a window. Oh, and there’s a bear, obviously. The chapter ends with Pierre seizing “the bear and, hugging him and lifting him up, began waltzing around the room with him” (35).

Discovery #4. Joining the military is associated with passion and high feeling–at least for a character named Nikolai, who declares that he is “not good for anything but military service” because he is “unable to hide [his] feelings” (41).

Discovery #5. Tolstoy has some astute insights into parenting.

“Up to now, thank God, I’ve been a friend to my children and have enjoyed their full trust,” said the countess, repeating the error of many parents who suppose that their children have no secrets from them.” (42)