Revving Up For Le Réveillon
In her Vindication of the Rights of Women Mary Wollstonecraft, on treating the role of parents in a child’s life, wrote that “parental affection produces filial duty.” We’ve seen throughout the novel so far all that the Count and Countess Rostov have done for their children. They’ve gone beyond the basic obligations of providing food, clothing, and shelter. They’ve also served as confidants, counselors, and, at least in the case of the Count, a timeless tutor in the art of busting a move. They’ve done all this at great expense. Maybe too much expense. So much so, in fact, that the time is rapidly approaching when the Rostov children will need to step up their filial duty game if old Wollstonecraft’s dictum is to be vindicated.
Natasha is already on the ball. Literally: today she directs the entire Rostov family’s preparation for the very important New Year’s Eve ball of 1810. Now, preparing a privileged, entitled, aristocratic Russian family for a ball may seem, in this inequality-obsessed age of ours, like a disgustingly fiddling occupation to use as an example of the role of duty in a child’s life but we must remember, even if we’re lowly, no-count people from Queens like yours truly, that, in the words of Radiohead, everything in its right place. This is what is expected of Natasha and she fulfills her role properly.
She’s up first thing in the morning and she goes hard non-stop until everyone is ready. She dresses everyone. She frets that Sonya’s bow is not right, that her mother’s cap is not pinned properly, and, treating herself last, that her own dress is too long. In the end, however, her frantic work gets everything together satisfactorily and she heads to her first ball.
What Natasha accomplishes in this chapter will soon seem like small beans once the Rostov’s financial world collapses under the weight of its own debts. But it’s a start. Moving forward, let’s see how Natasha continues to uphold her filial duties.
Spoiler alert: not too good.
Just as a good actor must play to the best of his ability whatever role is assigned to him by the dramatist, so also must the man of worth play whatever role he is assigned by Fortune.
Diogenes the Cynic