Monday, December 26, 2011

Vol IV, Part Three, Ch IV - XI: Petya Rostov / Point of View / Psychic Distance

The novel becomes exquisitely vivid and engaging once again with the story of Petya Rostov (Natasha's little brother). Denisov reappears as a senior officer, as does Dolokhov. On my paperback, I noted oodles of admirable detail, etc, but as I've become repetitive already, I'll skip blogging about that...

What especially impressed me in this section was Tolstoy's sudden switch in point of view and pull-back in psychic distance in describing the death of Petya Rostov. I think it works brilliantly to show the death and also infuse a sense of strangeness and horror.

pp. 1057- 1058

"Wait?... Hurra-a-ah!..." shouted Petya, and, not losing a moment, he galloped towards the place from which the shots were coming and were the powder smoke was thickest. A volley of shots rang out, stray bullets whined and splattered into something. The Cossacks and Dolokhov gallopped after Petya through the gates of the house. In the dense, undulating smoke some of the French dropped their weapons and ran out of the bushes towards the Cossacks, others ran down the hill to the pond. Petya galloped on his horse across the manor courtyard, and, instead of holding the reins, waved both arms somehow strangely and quickly, and kept slipping further to one side in his saddle. Running into the campfire smoldering in the morning light, his horse balked, and Petya fell heavily onto the wet ground. The Cossacks saw how his arms and legs jerked rapidly, though his head did not move. His head had been pierced by a bullet."

So we're right with Petya as he shouts out, then we move to some distant omniscient point of view ("stray bullets whined and splattered into something"), then for the rest of the paragraph we're with the Cossacks.

But to nitpick, the last sentence could have been cut.

P.S. I was amused to find this blog post by an English reader.

I'm still catching up with blogging and very close to finishing by Dec 31st.

1 comment:

  1. The emotional epicenter of the novel, the ground zero paragraph in the greatest work of pacifism every written.