War and Peace Saturday: Chapters 43-49

Now the war had gotten more real, which I am a little surprised by, given the upper class-nature of all the characters. Tolstoy definitely gives a spectrum of character points of view and their various reactions. We have Andrew, who goes back to the front lines even when given the chance to go to safety, and he proves himself as a brave right-hand man and good leader. He fights because he has an inner sense of honor, while disgraced Dolokhov distinguishes himself only to try to regain his former rank. Dolokhov was a hero, for sure, and at a time when they needed one, but he always made sure the commanding officers knew who was responsible–no modesty in him.

And then there’s Rostov. He was kind of the comic relief. He clearly had no idea what he was getting into when he signed up–in fact, I think he actually says or thinks this at some point. He freezes at the first sign of enemy attackers, which is part of a huge bridge burning debacle (though I don’t think that failure was his fault, he certainly didn’t help matters). Then later, when he is charging the enemy on horseback and his horse is killed under him he lays there moaning “I am killed!” (I laughed). He thinks he is too handsome and popular to die and wonders why the French would want to kill him. His little injury may get him out of the war. We’ll have to see.

And my new favorite character, along with Andrew, is Tushin, the artillery captain. I love his slight craziness–we first see him without any shoes, and then during the battle, he and his men hold off the entire French army pretty much with just four guns. Their back-up is removed, and he’s told to retreat multiple times but keeps firing away, causing the French to believe that no one would be that crazy to stand out there unprotected so it must be some kind of trap with the bulk of the army lying in wait behind them. Of course Andrew stands up for him when asked why he didn’t listen to orders to retreat and ended up leaving two (broken) guns behind when Andrew finally makes them retreat. Andrew and Tushin are new BFFs.

Just the war scenes in general were also really well done. A lot of times in movies (I don’t really know about in books because I haven’t read any war books, really except fantasy ones like Lord of the Rings)–anyway, a lot of times in war scenes the commanders seem like they’re fully in charge and all the soldiers are in tune with their orders and fight on like a finely trained machine. In this, though, we see full chaos. First, the front lines are so close before battle that soldiers from both sides are talking to each other. Then there are random desertions, soldiers refuse to follow orders, messengers are afraid to deliver their messages, and all around is general ineptitude. There are units that work, though, and do have that “machine” mode–like when Tushin is firing his guns.

This section of the book is over now, though. We have a new date 18-something, so I don’t know if there’ll be more war stuff. I’ll have to look back to the last date to see how many years may have been skipped. (A huge flaw of mine is an inability to remember dates–I took a African American History course in college, and every exam had essays about the Civil War, and I got the date wrong every time and to this day cannot remember the correct start/end dates 1861? maybe? or 1890-something?)

That’s all I’ve got for this section. Time to attend to my leaky washer and preschool teacher work.

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