War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace Volume 2, Part 4, Chapter 7 Summary
- Ilagin leaves them, but it’s late and rainy and they’re far away from home, so they decide to crash with Uncle for the night.
- At Uncle’s house, all the serfs are amazed to see Natasha. A woman! Riding a horse! And sitting sidesaddle! What’s next, pigs flying?
- Uncle goes to change his hunting clothes and comes back in a peasant outfit, which usually makes him look ridiculous but somehow fits in with his house.
- The housekeeper comes in and brings tons of awesome-sounding food for them.
- Nikolai and Natasha are loving Uncle’s easygoing, down to earth, honest lifestyle. Nikolai starts to really understand why Uncle is so respected in the area and why he has the reputation of a good, solid man.
- Just then Mitka the coachman strikes up a song on his balalaika.
- Shmoop aside: what a great name for a musical instrument. It’s onomatopoeic, meaning it’s named after the sound it produces. Anyway, a balalaika is kind of like a cross between a guitar and a banjo, and is generally used for traditional Russian folk music – so, you know, not the sophisticated music the Rostovs usually listen to and play.
- Right. Where were we? Oh, Mitka. So, the music? It’s incredible. Nikolai is a bit disturbed that he likes this low-class song, but Natasha is way into it and keeps asking for more.
- Suddenly, Uncle gets his own guitar and starts to play.
- Natasha, out of nowhere, gets a kerchief and starts doing a little Russian peasant dance. Which is crazy. Where would she even have learned any such thing – she’s been raised by French governesses all her life?
- Shmoop brain snack time. OK, this was Tolstoy’s big thing. He was always angrily ranting that the Russian aristocracy were so Frenchified that they weren’t even Russian anymore. This little scene of Natasha somehow sucking in the Russian spirit out of nowhere is probably supposed to mark her as good and worth emulating.
- For a second, Natasha starts thinking sad thoughts about her long, secret engagement, but she brushes them from her mind.
- Eventually some messengers from the Rostovs come looking for Nikolai and Natasha – the Count and the Countess are worried.
- They get into the carriage and ride home. Natasha is happy on the ride, and she and Nikolai have a friendly, loving conversation. It’s kind of amazing, actually – how often do we see grown siblings as close friends in books? Good work, Tolstoy.
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