When Pierre is happy Andrei is troubled, when Andrei is darkened, Pierre is giddy. No wonder they are friends: opposites attract.
It is just like Pierre to be innocent enough to not even know why he’s unhappy. The woman (well, girl) he loves will marry another, but he doesn’t even realize he loves Natasha. It never occurred to him he loves her, but he feels the pain of not having her just the same.
This is the first chapter where we can see Pierre loves Natasha – not in the way that is obvious, like Andrei, but in the way people who truly do love each other do, in how they worry for the other person with no trace of selfishness: they truly care about the other person. We see Pierre truly concerned for Natasha, and it’s quite natural for him to be concerned: because he loves her without knowing it.
What I love about Tolstoy is that he does not go in for bull shit. When people say things like “these days” he knows it’s going to be followed by bullshit because he knows people do not change no matter when they live and he knows that only stupid people think they quite understand “these days” as nobody else does and have detected some flaw in “these days”. And so he puts these words in Vera’s mouth.
We’ve been getting a lot of talk about change. The Emperor wants to reform government, Andrei wants to reform military law, Natasha is new to society, Pierre is renewing his role in Masonry, Berg and Vera are newly married. All this after the defeat and then befriending of the French. This is the peace that can’t last before the big storm. Yet everyone is young and hopeful for things that will not change.
This is the funniest chapter of the book, not because of any slapstick, but because of how cynical Tolstoy is towards that class of people who do everything like everyone else: the middle class. If Don DeLillo were a 19th century Russian author, he’d have written this chapter.
These people make nothing new, they follow in a path already well trodden. Meanwhile Napoleon is making very new roads.
I never before realized how unlikely it is for Andrei to be truly happy. Yes he can convince himself he is happy for a brief time, but it won’t last. His love for Natasha is doomed, but not because he won’t love her, but he’s just not capable of true joy, like Pierre. He posses all the qualities a man should have, except that by possessing them all them he lacks room for really living.