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War and Peace

War and Peace

by Leo Tolstoy

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Quote #7

In Moscow as soon as [Pierre] entered his huge house in which the faded and fading princesses still lived, with its enormous retinue; as soon as, driving through the town, he saw the Iberian shrine with innumerable tapers burning before the golden covers of the icons, saw the Kremlin Square with its snow undisturbed by vehicles, the sleigh drivers and hovels of the Sivtsev Vrazhok, saw those old Moscovites who desired nothing, hurried nowhere, and were ending their days leisurely; when he saw those old Moscow ladies, the Moscow balls, and the English Club, he felt himself at home in a quiet haven. In Moscow he felt at peace, at home, warm and dirty as in an old dressing gown. (2.5.1.2)

Part of what's comforting about Moscow for Pierre is the repetitive and unsurprising life he leads there. Check out how that monotony and routine is reinforced by the long first sentence, which does nothing but simply list all the sights. The sentence even keeps reusing the same structure, repeating the words "when he saw" at the beginning of almost every new list.

Quote #8

At length Dron, the village Elder, entered the room with a deep bow to Princess Marya [...].

"Dronushka," she said, regarding as a sure friend this Dronushka who always used to bring a special kind of gingerbread from his visit to the fair at Vyazma every year and smilingly offer it to her [...]. "Dronushka, Alpatych has gone off somewhere and I have no one to turn to. Is it true, as they tell me, that I can't even go away?"

"Why shouldn't you go away, your excellency? You can go," said Dron.

"I was told it would be dangerous because of the enemy. Dear friend, I can do nothing. I understand nothing. I have nobody! I want to go away tonight or early tomorrow morning." [...]
To Princess Mary it was strange that now, at a moment when such sorrow was filling her soul, there could be rich people and poor, and the rich could refrain from helping the poor. She had heard vaguely that there was such a thing as "landlord's corn" which was sometimes given to the peasants. [...] She began asking Dron about the peasants' needs and what there was in Bogucharovo that belonged to the landlord. [...] Dron looked intently at the princess while she was speaking.

"Discharge me, little mother, for God's sake! Order the keys to be taken from me," said he. "I have served twenty-three years and have done no wrong. Discharge me, for God's sake!"
Princess Mary did not understand what he wanted of her or why he was asking to be discharged. She replied that she had never doubted his devotion and that she was ready to do anything for him and for the peasants. (3.2.10.23-46)

This is a heavy-duty scene and needs some serious unpacking.

From Marya's point of view, Dron is the same guy she remembers being nice to her as a child. She still kind of thinks of him as an adult, as a bit of an authority figure, and someone whose loyalty is to her and the Bolkonsky family because he's part of their home life. But he's also her serf, so technically she owns him.

From Dron's point of view, Marya might have been a little girl once, but now she's the representative of the family that put him in charge of all the other serfs. That's a position that's about to get him into hot water now that the peasants are rebelling. So he wants to resign and give up this double allegiance.

But Marya has no insight into his point of view at all. When she thinks of what kind of problems serfs might be having, the only thing that comes to mind is hunger or poverty. This is not the case here, since these peasants have plenty to eat and just want more freedom. So much miscommunication. Awesomely well played.

Quote #9

Though tattered, hungry, worn out, and reduced to a third of their original number, the French entered Moscow in good marching order. It was a weary and famished, but still a fighting and menacing army. But it remained an army only until its soldiers had dispersed into their different lodgings. As soon as the men of the various regiments began to disperse among the wealthy and deserted houses, the army was lost forever and there came into being something nondescript, neither citizens nor soldiers but what are known as marauders. [...] Ten minutes after each regiment had entered a Moscow district, not a soldier or officer was left. Men in military uniforms and Hessian boots could be seen through the windows, laughing and walking through the rooms. In cellars and storerooms similar men were busy among the provisions, and in the yards unlocking or breaking open coach house and stable doors, lighting fires in kitchens and kneading and baking bread with rolled-up sleeves, and cooking; or frightening, amusing, or caressing women and children. There were many such men both in the shops and houses but there was no army. (3.3.26.19)

This is what we mean when we say that the domestic can break out like an infection anywhere in this novel. Seriously, the invading Frenchmen start baking bread and hanging out with the Russian women and children the minute they get to town. Talk about trying to create to "home" wherever you go.

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