It Kills the Ills
When we left Natasha in the final chapter of the pre-epilogic portion of our novel we argued that she had finally learned the lesson of patience. Today’s chapter serves as a kind of test to see if that argument holds. It does.
We begin with Natasha, hilariously, allowing Pierre “four weeks leave of absence.” Only married men will understand. Natasha’s benevolence, we’ll call it, is born of her indulgence of her husband’s political and philosophical interests. Perhaps, quick aside, her liberality is misplaced. It appears Pierre’s politics are of a Decembrist leaning. If that’s the case then he’ll need to summon his inner Platon Karataev once again. Those Siberian winters are, if Dostoevsky is to be believed, quite harsh what with all that permafrost and cockroach-and-cabbage soup. At any rate, Pierre takes his granted leave plus some extra time (and not the good extra time either). Natasha, relative to her previous, unreformed self, handles his unexpected and unaccounted for absence fairly well.
We all remember how she responded to Prince Andrei’s absence. Not exactly an exemplary display of fortitude and forbearance. She does much better this time. Sure, she panics. Yes, she gets upset. Not everyone is a sage. And, honestly, probably no one from the Rostov line has ever or will ever attain that station.
Today Natasha busies herself with family business instead of initiating a tumultuous love affair with the biggest bro of the Russian aristocracy. Smart move. Even her anger with Pierre is short-lived when he returns. She transitions smoothly and quickly back into emotional equilibrium.
It is important, moving forward, that she maintain her practice of patience. As A Year of War and Peace consistently argues, suffering is the one constant of life and patience is one antidote to the sickness of suffering.
It is, therefore, to the advantage even of good men, to the end that they may be unafraid, to live constantly amidst alarms and to bear with patience the happenings which are ills to him only who ill supports them.
Seneca, De Providentia