Monday, November 21, 2011

Vol I, Part Three, Ch VI: Points of View

You could write 5 PhD theses on Tolstoy's use of the roving omniscient point of view... which is a fancy way of saying "God's" POV. But on a practical level, what it means is that the writer has a menu, sometimes a vast menu, of choices for point of view in any particular scene. In the scene where Anna Mikhailovna brings Nikolai's letter to his mother, Countess Rostov, here's what happens:

p. 236

"Don't come in," [Anna Mikhailovna] said to the old count, who was following her, "later," she said, and closed the door behind her.
The count put his ear to the keyhole and began to listen.

At first he heard the sounds of indifferent talk, then only the sound of Anna Mikhailovna's voice making a long speech, then a cry, then silence, then both voices again, speaking together in joyful intinations, and then footsteps, and then Anna Mikhailova opened the door to him. Anna Mikhailovna's face bore the proud expression of a surgeon who has completed a difficult amuptation and admits the public so that it can appreciate his art.

"C'est fait!" she said to the count, pointing with a solemn gesture to the countess, who was holding the snuffbox with the portrait in one hand and the letter in the other, and pressing her lips first to the one, then to the other.

I think this strategy -- distancing the reader from the two women, blurring the whole scene-- makes it palatable. I start to imagine the scene written in a straightforward way: ooh, icky.

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