A Party of Leaves
The life of a leaf relies on the weather. The budding warmth of spring gives birth to a new generation of leaves and the heat of summer sustains them. Autumn’s chill withers them away.
Those attending the party in today’s chapter are fragile leaves, relying on external causes to either sustain them or wither them away.
We open with Pierre noticing Natasha. She doesn’t look her normal self. She’s more plain than pretty. Something is off in her face. It’s only after Prince Andrei speaks with her that she brightens up again.
As Pierre watches the Prince Andrei speak with Natasha he can’t help but be overcome by a sensation of simultaneous joy and pain.
The hosts of the party are equally reliant on others for their sense of well-being. Vera wants the party to have some romantic intrigue so she attempts to steer Prince Andrei into speaking about Natasha. Berg, for his part, feels as if no party in complete without at least one politically charged argument. So, naturally, he enlists Pierre to debate the most recent controversies coming out of Spain.
I always find it difficult to write about scenes like this. On the one hand it’s great to find these characters in such fun circumstances. Who doesn’t love a party? On the other hand, it pains me to see them starting down a road where their only source of happiness lies outside their sphere of control. They are opening themselves up for the inevitable hurt that comes with such an alignment.
The condition and characteristic of an uninstructed person is this: he never expects from himself (advantage) nor harm, but from externals. The condition and characteristic of a philosopher is this: he expects all advantage and all harm from himself. The signs (marks) of one who is making progress are these: he censures no man, he praises no man, he blames no man, he accuses no man, he says nothing about himself as if he were somebody or knew something; when he is impeded at all or hindered, he blames himself: if a man praises him, he ridicules the praiser to himself: if a man censures him, he makes no defense: he goes about like weak persons, being careful not to move any of the things which are placed, before they are firmly fixed: he removes all desire from himself, and he transfers aversion to those things only of the things within our power which are contrary to nature: he employs a moderate movement toward everything: whether he is considered foolish or ignorant, he cares not: and in a word he watches himself as if he were an enemy and lying in ambush.