Lay Aside the Senator’s Dress
Today Pierre, like some ruskie Odysseus in disguise before the suitors, dons his peasant garb and makes out to murder Napoleon. Come on, though. Really? This is Pierre Bezukhov we’re talking about. This is the same guy who inherited the wealthiest estate in all of Russia and instead of fuckstroking his way through the lecherous pools of his homeland with the likes of Anatole Kuragin, though there was certainly some of that, opted to trek a spiritual path with the freemasons. He’s not going to kill anyone. Pierre is a well-meaning, good-natured, albeit socially-awkward young man. No amount of low dress is going to camouflage his noble character.
Indeed, no sooner does Pierre set out on his mission than his true, benevolent nature shines out from under the ratty rags of his peasant coat. This opportunity is afforded by a woman he meets in the streets. She cries out for help. Her daughter is lost somewhere in the conflagration of Moscow. Here Pierre is confronted with a variation of the trolley problem ethical dilemma: Does he save the life of one real little girl or continue on with his plan to murder Napoleon in order to theoretically save the lives of many who might perish as a result of the Corsican terror’s tear through Europe?
Pierre does the right thing. He saves the girl from certain death.
This chapter serves as a reminder of the banal yet important insight that the true value of a person is located in their core character not in the clothes they wear or the position they keep in society.
Lay aside the senator’s dress, clothe yourself in rags and come forward in this character. What then have I not the power of displaying a good voice (that is, something I ought to do)?
Epictetus, The Discourses