(Just So) What’ll We Do About Boris?
The Countess prays and her daughter plays but both are consumed with worry.
The Countess has a million problems. Her oldest daughter, Vera, is to be married to take just one example. Well, she should be married anyway. She’s found a suitable suitor, but the family can’t support her dowry. So that means the Countess also has money problems. Maybe. In addition, as the Countess bows in humble prayer, one of her problems comes bouncing into her room in delightful merriment.
It’s Natasha. Natasha recognizes, too late, that her mother is praying so she tries to be as silent as her sixteen-year-old self can be and plops down on the bed waiting for her mother to finish. Once her prayers are complete the Countess joins her daughter on the bed and the two talk.
Most of the talk is about Boris. It’s clear that Natasha is still in love with him. The Countess recognizes that this is a bad match for her daughter, however, and she makes her case. The case is that Boris is poor, a relation, and also Natasha herself does not love him.
Natasha fights her mother a bit on this last point. The Countess maintains her position and adds that if Natasha keeps stringing Boris along the other young men will sour on her and she’ll lose all her prospects for marriage.
When the two part for the night Natasha cannot fall asleep. Her mind is plagued with agitated thought. We can imagine that the Countess, too, might be having difficulty sleeping. All those worries, after all. And so we see that, once again, our favorite characters find themselves in a state of anxiety because they cannot distinguish between what is under their control and what is not under their control.
That is why I hope the Countess’ nightly prayers are similar to our daily meditation today.
Why do you not rather give thanks to the gods that they have made you superior to everything that they did not place in your power, and have rendered you accountable only for that which is in your own power? They have discharged you from all accountability for your parents, and likewise for your brothers, and for your body, and for property, death, life. For what, then, have they made you accountable? For that which alone is in your power, the proper use of your impressions. Why, then, should you draw upon yourself those things for which you are not accountable? You are merely creating trouble for yourself.
Epictetus, The Discourses