This has always been one of my favorite chapters, though I don’t think I would ever be able to explain why. Maybe it’s because we get different character to ride with, Alpatych, but we also get to see war the way most people see it, as civilians caught in the cross-hairs of the enemy.
The falling of the roof is beautiful; represents Bald Hills and the old Prince’s mind.
All of war is senseless.
The scene where Alpatych sees the field of oats being mowed down for fodder by the troops is a clear sing that the enemy is far too near, but then we have a Remains of the Day moment where Alpatych never lets his mind wander beyond that of his master’s needs. He is the perfect servant (except for the bells he likes) but he represents the blind following without thinking or living free.
I always get the image of an old dog trying to find somewhere to go hide so it can die when I read this chapter when the old Prince keeps sleeping in a different part of the house every night.
I love the one brief moment into his most private thoughts when he recalls a memory from his youth, also at war. The brightly colored tent, his face clear of wrinkles, his mind hot and full of life. So sad.
Smartly, Tolstoy knows he can’t go into so much detail that shows the state of confusion the Army is in – too many people, too many new characters. So instead he just tells about it then shows us the confusion of the old Prince. Here we see a great mind gone feeble, a house divided, and it stands in for all of Russia.
It’s been said the novel is SO long, but it’s not one word too long or too short.
Except for the second epilogue; that should have tossed in the bin.
We get another glimpse at Tolstoy’s “THEME” as he spends the whole chapter telling us how history really works, how all men are at the mercy of every other man and circumstance, that man has no real control over anything beyond his nose, and that everyone is always acting to events they don’t have a lot of control over. I don’t necessarily disagree with him, but these parts are dull and “teachy”.
80 years later another man will whip up the fervor of a nation and lead them, madly, into war. Hitler was nothing new, and though I am not comparing Hitler with the Emperor Alexander, the feeling among the people was similar in their nationalistic zeal, the desire to outdo each other with promises of assistance to the point of “feeling amazed themselves at what they had done.”
Times never change.
Obviously Pierre is not cut out for making speeches and influencing society through oratory and politics. Just like at Anna Pavlovna Scherer’s, he’s not taken very seriously. And even Pierre, though not as quickly as Petya, gets caught up in the nonsense and rhetoric. Nobody is immune from politics.