The Meat It Feeds On
When we left poor Pierre Bezukhov in the last chapter he was seated at a table at the English Club across from Dolokhov. Dolokhov, you may remember, is rumored to be sleeping with Pierre’s wife, Helene. So cheers to whoever formatted the party’s seating arrangements. Great job, bro!
Naturally, Pierre, unfamiliar with the peaceful meditations of A Year of War and Peace, is unable to enjoy the festivities. He cannot calm himself. His mind is racing with “terrible and monstrous” thoughts about Dolokhov. He’s on the edge de la valle d’abisso dolorosa che ‘ntrono accoglie d’infinitit guai, and, like Jules Winnfield, his rage is Superfly T.N.T.
In fact, when everyone else rises to their feet to toast the Emperor’s health Pierre remains seated, lost in his terrible and monstrous thoughts.
Rostov, taking note of this social impropriety, scolds Pierre. Dolokhov interjects, admonishing Rostov to make up with Pierre because “one should always make up with the husbands of pretty women.” Then he proceeds to toast the health of pretty women, “and their lovers.” Pierre is reaching the breaking point now. His mind is boiling over and at just that moment Dolokhov snatches something from his hand.
Pierre rises from the table in a furious leap and challenges Dolokhov to a duel. Dolokhov, delighter in duels, accepts.
Pierre and Dolokhov choose their seconds and meet the next morning in the Sokolniki forest. Nesvitsky, Pierre’s second, attempts to dissuade Pierre from following through with the duel. Pierre dismisses this rather sage advice, deciding it much more prudent to go ahead and duel with someone with a reputation for winning duels.
Anger, frustration, jealousy, all born of worldly attachments, has brought Pierre to the Sokolniki forest. What a terrible turn of events. Just a few chapters before Pierre had inherited his father’s wealth and stood as one of the most well-respected and richest men in all of Russia. But he couldn’t get control of his emotions and now he stands ready to lose it all.
The man who does not get angry stands firm, unshaken by injury; he who gets angry is overthrown.
Seneca, On Anger III