Saturday, February 15, 2014

Nicholas Mature?

As we continue reading, I think we can all recognize that Nicholas has gone through some difficult experiences. He has seen war; he knows what it's like to feel like a coward. Nicholas also lost a large sum of money. Regardless of how unaware Nicholas is of money, it was still difficult for him. Yet, Nicholas continues to disappoint. He's like the endearing boy that says something really rude at a family gathering but which everyone forgives because he's such a pet. Why can't we criticize Nicholas like we do others? For example, I think that originally I let him off the hook too easy. He could have done more for Denisov. However, since he was so caught up in his anger towards the French and Boris' role, he didn't try to get Boris on his side. At first, it's easy to justify Nicholas' anger because I can understand his anger at feeling like a pawn. Yet, on further inspection, it's Nicholas' pride that's hurt- not his ideology: "Rostov had been out of humor from the moment he noticed the look of dissatisfaction on Boris' face..." (358). We've seen Nicholas grow, but has he actually matured?

One of the other facts that convinces me that Nicholas has not matured is his adoration for the tsar. The way he idolizes him reminds me of the infatuation of the narrator to the other little boy in Childhood (I apologize for not remembering the names but I'm at the Posse Plus Retreat and didn't bring my book with me). Our narrator consciously justified the actions of the other boy in order for it to fit with his feelings for him. Nicholas is doing the same thing. I think our narrator purposefully makes Nicholas look silly tin order to demonstrate his child-like nature: "Beside himself with enthusiasm, Rostov ran after him with the crowd" (361). Can we imagine Andrew behaving is way? I don't think even Pierre would chase after a Freemason in this manner. Finally, I was disappointed that Nicholas had the opportunity to mature as he was asking the right questions: "Terrible doubts rose in his soul... Next he thought of that self-satisfied Bonaparte... liked and respected by Alexander. Then why those severed arms and legs and those dead men?" (364). Nicholas could have continued exploring these doubts and dealt with internal conflict as we see Andrew do it. Instead, Nicholas drinks. Is Nicholas maturing at all or at a slow pace?


  1. I think that the comparison between Nicholas and Boris is unfair for several reasons. First, the boys are from disparate backgrounds. Even though the Rostovs are not comfortably wealthy, Nicholas was raised beneath a veil of privilege; his parents' haphazard spending habits reinforced his belief that he would always be provided for while Boris learned from his wheedling mother that he would have to strategically flatter the right people in order to succeed.

    Because of these discrepancies, Rostov has much more pride than his friend, and this explains why he is so perturbed when Boris appears less than hospitable to his visit. Boris, on the other hand, has become a social climber of sorts, and is striving to distance himself from Rostov, perhaps because his benefactor Andrew dislikes him. While I find both of their reactions to be self-absorbed, I do not believe that this is necessarily a reflection of immaturity in Rostov or Boris. After all, the whole notion of advancement within the military is based on the arguably irrational belief that you are have superior intellect/courage/strength to thousands of men, so much so that you are capable of commanding these men. I would argue that a certain level of narcissism and egoism is necessary to succeed in the military, or for that matter, any competitive job market or facet of life.

  2. Alosha, I agree with you in that Boris and Nicholas had different upbringings but I was not trying to compare them. Regardless of what Boris has done, I want to judge Nicholas based on his own actions. I agree that self-absorption does not necessarily reflect immaturity but self-absorption combined with Nicholas' inability to control his temper does signal immaturity. While I do not agree that narcissism and egoism are necessary to succeed in the military or competitive job (in fact, I think it would hinder), even if that was the case, Nicholas is not succeeding. I think a large part of that is his immaturity.