The Sweet Nectar
Society is the hive where the honey is made. The sweet nectar of personal satisfaction is a byproduct of our social interaction with each other. Friendship, religious communion, political affiliation, civic institutions, nineteenth-century aristocratic Russian balls: these are the things that not only bring us together but also provide us with a sustained sense of happiness.
Just look at Natasha in today’s chapter. She’s at her first ball and she’s overwhelmed with joyful emotion. She can barely stand up at one point.
The ball is also a learning opportunity for her. She spends most of the chapter, after she gets control of herself, talking with Marya Ignatievna Peronskaya. Here Natasha learns about all the people in Russian society. We can also assume that by paying attention to how others behave at such a setting she too learns how to comport herself.
During her cataloging of the guests, Peronskaya points out Helene and her brother, Anatole. But Natasha is more interested in Pierre who she spots across the room. He’s talking to a pair of young men. One of the young men turns out to be Prince Andrei. He appears, to Natasha at least, much more younger, happier, and better-looking than he did when they first met weeks previously at Otradnoe.
Of all the people at the ball Natasha wants to know more about Prince Andrei. Peronskaya dismisses him as an arrogant and proud man. We get the feeling, however, that Natasha doesn’t agree and wants to know more about him.
The chapter ends here. We’ll have to wait to see if Natasha can somehow manage a proper introduction to Prince Andrei. For now, however, she’ll have to remain content just to be in society rather than in love.
And again, consider that for whatever purpose each thing has been constituted, for this it has been constituted, and toward this it is carried; and its end is in that toward which it is carried; and where the end is, there also is the advantage and the good of each thing. Now the good for the reasonable animal is society.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations