Unlike Pierre’s father, Prince Bolkonsky has done everything he can to ready his children for the difficulty of life. It’s no accident the Bald Hills scene immediately follows the death scene. Julie’s letter to Maria talks of how she loves Nikolai; another case of one person loving whom the other will eventually marry. Pierre does what Maria preaches: he accepts whatever is given to him, but he has no guide.
I always felt the scene where the 2 women struggle over the portfolio with the will mirrored the struggle of life and death. Though the old Prince was unable to move and we know nothing of his feelings, we can feel that struggle around him. I always wondered how Anna Mikhaylovna knew what was in that portfolio, but the chapter ends with her thoughts and it feels like she’s giving us her spin on the matter.
The smile that the old Prince Bezukhov seems to give Pierre always struck me as a look saying “You have no idea what you’re in for”.
It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly how Tolstoy does it, but in this scene we are constantly aware of the presence and power of the dying man. His body feels larger than life, somehow. Tolstoy almost always uses words of strength to describe the body: ruddy, lion, broad.
Everyone seems to know what they are doing except for Pierre. Such is his character, a man with no real convictions or solid beliefs, but who is open to everything and is willing to go along with whatever anyone tells him to do. Such is his weakness and the trajectory of his arc. This juxtaposes with Andrei who knows exactly what he believes : and is all the more miserable because of it.
It could be easy to dismiss this scene where Katerina seems oblivious to reason from Vassily, but I’ve actually known someone just like her, all caught up in what she thinks is going on with no idea as to what is actually happening. You can see why the old Prince Bezukhov leaves her nothing in the will.
The whole scene is disgraceful as these two plot over the will and everything they say is negative.
Pierre and Natasha dance for the very first time. At their happiest moment they are together and through the course of the novel and their unhappy decisions, it comes full circle at the end when they finally marry and create their own happy family.
I love the Count dancing the Daniel Cooper. For all his weaknesses he is such a good man and embodies the spirit of Russia just as Natasha will do at Uncle’s.