War and peace (vol. 2)

I continued my read with Tolstoy’s War and peace, volume 2.

From my point of view, this volume has two big themes, not war related. The first one represents the freemasonry in Russian society, and the second one is the marriage customs and constraints on women in the Russian society.

One of the main characters of the novel, Pierre Bezuhov, joins the masonry, at the illusion of enlightenment. He is not happy with his life because of his wife not connecting to him and cheating on him, his properties being oversized for a single man, lack of happiness and friends and living a life full of disorientation. In this scenario he is easily adopted by a brother of the masonry order, who promises him help, enlightenment and salvation. He enters the brotherhood with a mystical ritual that is more ridiculous than serious. My feeling here is that Tolstoy mocks the masonry rituals. The promised salvation is only apparent, because Pierre hastily returns to his old habits, trying to save the people working at his properties, but ending up in being fooled by his employed directors.

The other major theme of the volume is the coming of age of Natasha, the youngest daughter of the Rostov family. Her story is of a naive , young and attractive young lady, who is unaware of how things work in a society, how anyone can be good or evil, and how to choose her own path in life. Natasha is very easy to convince, has very little will power of her own, and acts as a typical teenager who falls for the first man who smiles at her.

She first falls in love with Prince Andrey, who is a honest man and asks her in marriage. Only this gesture is enough for her to fall in love crazy for him, but really unaware of what love actually means. She is attracted more to the idea of belonging to a powerful man, the idea of change, the idea of becoming a woman, the idea of becoming mature. When Andrey leaves the country for a whole year because of his father’s constrains, Natasha acts like a child who lost her toy, and forcibly puts her to a great deal of suffering, for missing something she never actually had.

At the first encounter with a seductive man, all the thoughts about her greatest love of all life, Andrey, vanish in few days, when a seductive cougar promises her to take her with him and get secretly married, and be happy together. She blindly believes him, even if he only wants to take advantage of her, being already married and wanting to have fun. She again acts as a child who got a new toy and immediately ready to give up on the old toy when she dumps Prince Andrey without a second thought.

Even if her friend Sonia saves her from the humiliation, she does not understand what is happening to her, being overly emotive and acting only on childish instincts. The author here depicts all possible variations of the life of a woman in society : being a child who does not know what is happening to her, being a woman in marriage and property of a man, being an old unmarried woman , who is frustrated at her younger counterparts, or the married woman who does not care about her man and acts alone. All types are well pictured, with strong examples: Princess maria is the old unmarried woman who finds the way of God and frustrated at her younger woman acquaintances, or Pierre’s wife who spends all her time being admired by other men in parties.

I have a feeling of a strong character evolution in Natasha, who I hope will get to understand her mistakes in next parts of the book, also, to not get fooled so easily as now.

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