one of Hitler’s ordinances was the forbidding of Jews to sit on public benches, “one of those orders obviously thought up only for the sadistic purpose of malicious torture.” this directly effected his elderly mother who needed to rest on her walks every 5-10 minutes.
“They believed in the League of Nations and in the peace treaties as sick people do in nearly labeled medicines.”
his observation of the luncheon debate between Shaw and Wells reminds us of his youthful days of intellectual vigor with his peers. But now everyone is old, and he doesn’t even know what the debate is really about.
In the first battle Nicholas falls off his horse and runs for cover. The next battle Andrei is wounded but not fatally. Later Andrei is wounded mortally (though not immediately). Soon after Pierre is faced with death but relieved. Now Petya is killed. Just as Tolstoy sets each scene by opening the lens to take in what is further and further away, death has moved closer and closer to us.
Though we don’t realize it right away, Tolstoy shifts the POV ever so slightly away from Petya to watching Petya. He’s killed mid-paragraph but we don’t get the exact moment or bullet, we can only watch. Dolokhov says of Petya “done for” twice, the first time with a frown, the second as if he takes pleasure in saying it, but is he glad Petya is dead? We can’t know this, he might proud of Petya’s death.
This is the first time in the entire novel where the (translated) phrase “from all sides” does not follow a description of something oppressive happening to the character experiencing something. This time it’s Petya’s music he can hear “from all sides”, something beautiful, but a talent he’ll never achieve. And so this beauty is mingled with the phrase that always means something bad. It’s a portent.
I feel like we now live in a society of Dolokhov’s, where his cunning and cold adherence to doing “whatever it takes” with no nonsense (morality included) is seen as a virtue. We see this most in business. A CEO will lay off a 1000 people to improve profits and please stockholders. Is he wrong to do so? The law says he isn’t: it’s “his” company. But is he right? We value Dolokhov’s, even depend on them.
Act like you belong somewhere and you’ll probably get away with anything. Dolokhov is many things, but he’s no coward. In fact he’s one of the most remarkable people in the novel because of how difficult he is to pin down. He’s confident, he’s calculating, he’s cold, he’s direct: and his directness is honest, in a way. He’s not fake like Berg or even Denisov who vacillates between morality and killing.
Dolokhov is of course right about what happens to the French prisoners that Denisov keeps sending away. They all die, and quite miserably, too. Dolokhov’s cold logic is to kill them now because it’s more ‘humane’ and less of a drain on their own supplies. Denisov, try as he might, cares too much about morality and isn’t the rascal Dolokhov is. But in war Dolokhov is probably more effective, unfortunately.
If there’s one thing Tolstoy fails completely and totally at it’s taking the romance out of war. His comradeship, his beautiful descriptions of the battle, even with all the time he spends talking about how disorganized, random, and petty the Army is, I’d be lying if i didn’t feel at least a small pang of youthful Petya-ness to go take part in the war.
Petya trying so hard to make a good impression, to get people to like him by giving away everything, and he is a charming young man, but we know how naive he is, too. And I guess if I think hard enough that were I his age I would have acted just the same, foolish as it seems to be almost 30 years later. And the he’s also so eager to find the action of the war, and that’s the tragedy nations still prey on.