Do Not Swear by Natasha’s Moon
Juliet meets Romeo and within four days he has killed her cousin, married her, killed himself, and set the table for her eventual suicide. Similarly, Natasha meets Anatole Kuragin and within the span of four acts of an opera she falls in love with him and thereby sets into motion a fairly disastrous course of events, though one not quite as drastic as everybody’s favorite star-cross’d lovers. Times of woe, it turns out, affords plenty of time to woo.
Young, wild love doesn’t need much time. “She did not know,” Tolstoy writes of Natasha, “how it was that within five minutes she had come to feel herself terribly near to this man.” Within that tiny sliver of time Anatole vanquishes her, seemingly erasing any memory of Prince Andrei. How does he do it?
Well, to borrow from another of the Bard’s brainchildren, the Prince of Darkness is a gentleman. Anatole enters Natasha’s life dressed in his finest military uniform. He’s sophisticated, confident, and bold. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a good flirt.
His magic works. Before the opera is finished Natasha is completely his. She thinks to herself that she has never felt this close to another man. She cannot help but look at him, inviting the return of his own gaze.
It’s only later, distanced from this encounter that she is able to reflect on what has happened. She despairs. She’s confused and angry. She doesn’t know what to do, nor who to talk to about it. Sonya won’t do, she wouldn’t understand. Only her mother, Natasha thinks, could help her through this crisis. Too bad her mother isn’t in Moscow.
That needn’t matter. As A Year of War and Peace has suggested before, it’s often beneficial to hold the image of a helpful person in your mind to help guide you through life. The old countess may not be there in person but Natasha carries her along in her heart. She’d do well to ask her mother for help in this situation.
We need to set our affections on some good man and keep him constantly before our eyes, so that we may live as if he were watching us and do everything as if he saw what we were doing.
Seneca, Letters from a Stoic