Thursday, 7 February 2013

Women characters in "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy

I will just tell that this topic is immense. One can discuss the "overripe” bride, Julie Karagina, and self-seeking Mademoiselle Bourienne, and the unfortunate fate of Sonya.

By the way, in my childhood I was very sympathetic to Sonya: fate cheated her – she was left without parents at an early age, grew up as a dependent, a dowry-less girl. Sonya put tremendous efforts to be worthy of her beloved cousin, Count Nicholas Rostov, and in the end, due to the difficult situation of the family, was forced to cancel the engagement and resign from the prospects to become his wife. She had nowhere to go, so from the time of Nicholas's marriage she lived with his family.  

You may think what you like of it, but this is not fair! One girl has a mother, and a father, and brothers, and sisters, and success in  society, and at least some sort of a dowry, and the title of Countess, and the other one has nothing. Both girls (Natasha and Sonya) were raised by the same family.

Tolstoy describes her fate in the dialog between Natasha and Countess Mary:

"You know," said Natasha, "you have read the Gospels a great deal- there is a passage in them that just fits Sonya."

"What?" asked Countess Mary, surprised.

"To him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not shall be taken away.' You remember? She is one that hath not; why, I don't know. Perhaps she lacks egotism, I don't know, but from her is taken away, and everything has been taken away. Sometimes I am dreadfully sorry for her. Formerly I very much wanted Nicholas to marry her, but I always had a sort of presentiment that it would not come off. She is a sterile flower, you know- like some strawberry blossoms. Sometimes I am sorry for her, and sometimes I think she doesn't feel it as you or I would."

Though Countess Mary told Natasha that those words in the Gospel must be understood differently, yet looking at Sonya she agreed with Natasha's explanation. It really seemed that Sonya did not feel her position trying, and had grown quite reconciled to her lot as a sterile flower. She seemed to be fond not so much of individuals as of the family as a whole. Like a cat, she had attached herself not to the people but to the home. She waited on the old countess, petted and spoiled the children, was always ready to render small services, for which she had a gift, and all this was unconsciously accepted from her with insufficient gratitude.

Well, all that is very well said. The Rostovs who raised Sonya were generous and warm people. However, they were not able to give her the same amount of love and energy as they did to Natasha. In fact, you cannot blame them; they could not replace the real parents and should not have to do so. They just raised a “cat”! What could have been done? Do you think Sonya's fate would have been better if she grew up in some Institute for Noble Maidens?...

Actually, it is not Sonya that I wanted to discuss, I wanted to talk about the central women images of the novel, two antipodes: Maria Bolkonskaya and Natasha Rostova and I will talk about them in my next post.

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