Today’s chapter is a veritable cornucopia of passions and fervency. Natasha and her mother are simultaneously panicked and elated at Prince Andrei’s transparent visitation to their home. Prince Andrei is in more love than early-era Beatles lyrics and his friend Pierre is as despondent and gloomy as a post-war French intellectual or an American who read Nietzsche too early.
It’s Pierre, however, that I’d like to focus on today.
His character, his essential goodness, really shines through in today’s reading. He’s still desperate, ashamed, and bleak in his outlook. He’s still hopelessly grappling with the questions of finding meaning in a meaningless universe. He’s still fat.
And, yet, despite his troubles, he’s able to remain a good friend to Prince Andrei. That takes real strength. Consider the situation: It’s likely, given what we know, that Pierre has romantic feelings for Natasha. He’s probably in love with her at this point. Naturally, it’d be upsetting to him if she should be with someone else. Despite this, Pierre is fully supportive of Prince Andrei when Andrei tells him of his love for Natasha and desire to marry her. Pierre doesn’t allow his sour mood, nor his feelings for Natasha to preclude him from advocating for his friend. We’re even told that “the brighter Prince Andrei’s lot appeared to him, the gloomier seemed his own.”
Still, Pierre supports his friend.
True, genuine friendship presupposes a strong, purely objective and entirely disinterested concern for another’s weal and woe and this, in turn, real identification with the friend.
Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena