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War and Peace

War and Peace

by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace Volume 2, Part 5, Chapter 2 Summary

  • Meanwhile, guess who else is in town? Everyone’s favorite crazy old man, Prince Bolkonsky.  He’s some kind of big deal now politically, even though he’s obviously starting to suffer from dementia.
  • OK, Shmoop’s got to point out here that the next few chapters are a masterful piece of work. We haven’t come across a more nuanced and detailed description of the mental deterioration of aging in a book from the 19th century. Usually old people are treated as crazy buffoons, like Smallweed in Dickens’s Bleak House, plain old buffoons, like Pavel Kirsanov in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, or just plain crazy, like Fyodor Pavlovich in Dostoevky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Here we’ve got depth and so much realistic description that it feels like a case study from a psychiatrist’s patient files.
  • Prince Bolkonsky is still torturing Marya, bigtime. He’s basically perfected the long-term psychological torture of this sad woman, and it works even better in Moscow because she has no friends, like her people of God.
  • Marya runs into Julie Karagin, whom she’s been writing letters to, but in real life they have nothing in common and nothing to talk about. Julie is rich and trying to get married, which makes her vain and self-obsessed. Meanwhile, Marya won’t ever get married because daddy chases all the potential suitors away and she's determined to sacrifice her happiness for her father and for her religion.
  • Marya is still taking care of Andrei’s son. Now she has to educate him, and she realizes that she’s got the same mean streak that her own dad did with her. Ah, the cycle of abuse.
  • The last straw is that Prince Bolkonsky is making it sound more and more like he’s going to marry Mlle. Bourienne. He forces Marya to make all kinds of gestures of respect towards her, and one day even starts making out with Mlle. Bourienne in front of her.
  • Later, when Marya loses it and yells at Mlle. Bourienne, her father makes her apologize.
  • And of course, like any masterfully abused child (see also Amy in Dickens’s Little Dorrit), Marya kind of thinks it’s all her fault and still loves and won’t judge her father.
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